Google has officially begun switching all organic searches to encrypted searches. Now all information about the organic keyword used to visit a website will be blocked, or “not provided” regardless of analytics tools
. Brands will be able to see how many people visited their site through organic search, but not what search term they used to get there.
Google has been moving in this direction for some time. In early 2011, it launched secure search for all users who were logged into their Google accounts. As of Sept. 4, all users who visit Google are considered secure users, and therefore their organic search terms will be encrypted. When asked about the change, Google said it implemented the change due to users’ privacy concerns.
Unfortunately, many brands, SEO teams, and content marketers have relied on this keyword data to help optimize site performance, so they will have to adjust their tactics.
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There are a few key areas where marketers will see the effects of these changes:
• Content optimization: Despite removing performance data by organic keyword, Google has opted to keep reporting on webpage or URL performance. Content teams should focus on Web page performance and engagement, rather than on keywords. If a brand runs a paid search, marketers should use keyword data from paid search programs.
• User experience and landing page optimization: The change emphasizes optimizing the overall Web page viewing experience. Google’s changes suggest a shift to more experiential view of SEO. The rule of thumb is to provide a better organic brand experience, and your organic search traffic should increase as a consequence.
So far, Google is the only major search engine adopting this change; organic keyword data will still be available from Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. Additionally, marketers and SEO specialists still have other metrics to leverage:
• Average keyword rankings
• Landing page traffic and performance (conversion rate, engagement metrics)
• Google paid search keyword data
• Performance data available in Google webmaster tools
The change represents a move toward a more private experience for organic visitors, and an impetus for marketing teams to focus more on the user experience and providing great content and less on keyword optimizations.
Nick Papagiannis is director of interactive/search for independent marketing and communications agency Cramer-Krasselt.