Google Is Starting To Kill Keywords Tracking

Keyword tracking killed by GoogleIf you’ve ever done “keyword research” for your websites, you know it’s a minefield. Unless you have a Ph.D. in keywordology, you’ll quickly be bamboozled by comparing ”visitor volume”, “seasonal trends”, “exact versus phrase match” and all the other related variables that go into finding “good” keywords to target and write articles for.

One of the easiest ways to shortcut the entire process is to search your webserver logs for the keywords that people actually USE when searching Google (or other search engines) before visiting your site. All you have to do is trawl your weblogs for these “Bonus” keywords. You can do it manually, or use software to do it automatically. I do a bit of both, with Google Analytics doing the automation for me.

When you discover a keyword that someone used to find and visit your site, it’s a great feeling. If it’s a keyword you wrote an article around, it’s proof that your SEO is working. If it’s a keyword you DIDN’T write an article around, that’s even better because it shows that Google trusts your site enough to send you traffic for a Golden keyword you didn’t actually optimise for… and now you can write an article around it to get more visits!

For example, say your main keyword is “toy electric train”, but, one day, you notice someone visited your site for the keyword, “electric model train”. When you check at Google, you’re only on page two for that keyword. How hard would it be to get more visitors for “electric model train”, when you know that, without trying, you’ve generated traffic for it from page two of Google? Pretty easy, right? That’s why I call them bonus keywords!

But now Google is starting to hide the data containing the keywords from webmasters. When people do a Google search while logged in to their Google account, the search is done at a secure page, an https request. The results of the secure search are show to the Google user as normal, and the click on the chosen search result takes them to the website they want to visit… BUT the search keyword is NOT passed to the destination web-server.

It’s estimated that about 10-12% of searches done at Google are secure ones, which doesn’t seem like a problem, until you consider what would happen if Google switched ALL searches to the secure system. All referral keyword information would be hidden resulting in webmasters losing “Bonus” keyword data, third party analytics software being unable to track “keywords to sales” and advertising platforms that display ads based on the incoming keyword searches would stop working.

So why would Google make the switch to secure searches? Well, it would be an obvious way to let everyone know (including lawmakers and regulators) that Google cares about “user privacy”. Not only cares, but is actively switching people to secure searches. Who could argue that making the switch would be a good thing? Of course, the fact that it kills “bonus keywords” and “keyword to sale tracking” for webmasters as well as certain advertising methods would be just coincidental. Interesting, Adwords ads still reveals the search query to the advertisers! I guess Google is assuming that, 1: people can tell the ads from the organic results and, 2: are happy to give up a measure of their privacy to advertisers that they’re not happy to give up to the websites appearing in the organic results. That’s quite a big assumption…

Of course, Google says that webmasters need not fear! If you use Google’s Webmaster Tools (GWT) you can, “receive an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to their site for each of the past 30 days”. Woohoo. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t like GWT at all. I’d much rather do my own digging through my weblogs or via Analytics than trust the “aggregate list” from GWT.

What do you think? Is this a deliberate ploy by Google to move webmasters to Adwords, or just a privacy -related action ahead of a regulatory requirement? Will it affect keyword tracking? Will it affect you as a user of Google, or as a webmaster?

Please leave your comments below.

Courtesy of Neil Shearing

On November 3rd, 2011, posted in: eBusiness Tips by Tags: , , , ,
One Response to Google Is Starting To Kill Keywords Tracking
  1. This issue is much discussed here in Germany, too. We are well know for putting exorbitant importance on user privacy. Not long ago, Google had to modify Analytics as a result of a conflict with a german Federal Commissioner for Data Protection. I don´t know what the heck the problem is – no one cares for what someone is doing on a website, the only thing that is interesting are the aggregation of all user actions. Anyway, I don´t think Google wants to show they care for data protection, but want to force online professionals to do more adwords. Time for a change in search engine land, hopefully anouther search engine will arise…here in Germany Google has nearly 95% market share (incl. t-online, gmx etc), so whatever they deside affacts us online pros a lot.

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