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Google is trying to make its search engine safer and more secure by defaulting SSL search protocol. This will make any search query users type in become hidden or [Not Provided] for everyone except Google itself. While it may make the internet a more frustrating place for marketers and webmasters, this makes the internet experience both good and bad for the user. Good in a sense that people will have a harder time snooping onto what they are doing online since it will be secure, however it’s bad because digital marketers will have less information to provide better user experience and content for them. We can see how [Not Provided] is affecting Analytics data over time as seen in the screenshots below: Google Analytics 3 Month Overview 2012

October – December 2012 Analytics

Google Analytics 3 Month Overview 2011

October – December 2011 Analytics

As you can see [Not Provided] traffic has doubled in one year during the same time frame. Although results will vary between industries, it’s apparent that Google is really pushing back on SEO with this.What will this mean for SEO and one of our longtime measurements? It means we have to stop being lazy and really dive into the other rich data such as engagement time, traffic and conversion rates your Analytics and Webmaster Tools provides you! Quick tips novice and advance users can implement to deal with the [Not Provided] data:

  • Utilize more pay per click (PPC) campaigns to get an estimate of how well keywords are performing; this might be costly in the long run so gather enough data to hypothesize an organic keyword strategy.
  • Google’s Webmaster Tools offers a wealth of data on daily search queries and top landing pages for the last 30 days. This will be more work as you have to wait every 30 days for new data, however you will still be able to gauge how people are being attracted to your website.
  • Squeeze as much as you can with the data that’s still given to you on Google Analytics, it’s not optimal, but it’s better than zero percent.
  • View traffic on landing pages and the engagement time. You know what content is on there so you can estimate what’s driving people to those pages. If you have the opportunity to use Visual Website Optimizer set up a heat map to track user’s behavior on each page you have it set up on.

Google loves receiving all sorts of data from its users, but they don’t like to share that information anymore to people in the digital marketing industry. They are obscuring a majority of data in [Not Provided], which makes organic SEO tracking of keywords much more difficult. We won’t be able to distinguish from an organic search or referral traffic in the future as [Not Provided] will dominate our Analytics. Don’t let this deter your efforts though, be creative and use the other data you have at your disposal!

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