Ready For Less Useful SEO Traffic Metrics?

Google’s big on privacy these days. It’s no surprise, considering the blowback they’ve received on Google Buzz and their impending antitrust investigations.

Even so, I was a very surprised to hear Google announce that they are going to stop reporting which keywords drove traffic to sites in Google Analytics if the searcher A) is logged into Google, and B) clicks on a link to your site in the organic search results.

The goal is to make searching more secure. Google suggests this will only impact a small percentage of visitors, but the ramifications extend beyond Google.com and affect anybody that relies on Google Analytics.

How It Works

To protect Google users’ privacy, Google will encrypt the data transfer between their browser and Google. This makes it harder for somebody to capture and “read” your data as it is transmitted from your computer to Google and back.

Bad For SEO And CRO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is complicated enough, but when Google removes some crucial keyword data from the Google Analytics, it becomes much harder to analyze results and know what is working (and what isn’t).

To help you better identify the signed in user organic search visits, we created the token “(not provided)” within Organic Search Traffic Keyword reporting. You will continue to see referrals without any change; only the queries for signed in user visits will be affected. Note that “cpc” paid search data is not affected.

[pullquote]This can hurt a site when every 0.1% matters.[/pullquote]The real concern is for those people focused on Conversion Rate Optimization. Some data will be missing, which means that conversion rates at the keyword level won’t be as valid.

Even though I don’t do much SEO work for clients these days, the organic search traffic data is extremely valuable for planning, managing, and optimizing PPC campaigns. It helps us define a campaign structure and set initial bids for new advertisers. PPC data, when compared to SEO data for the same keywords, can really improve campaign efficiency and effectiveness.

Boon For PPC?

Despite the drawbacks for SEO folks, marketers can look at this as just one more reason to invest in PPC.

From the Google.com blog post describing the change:

If you choose to click on an ad appearing on our search results page, your browser will continue to send the relevant query over the network to enable advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present to you.

Markets always seek efficiency. If PPC marketers can demonstrate greater efficiency than SEO because they have more data, rational companies will invest where they can get the greatest return.

(CC photo credit)

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