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Google goes dark on keywords. What now?

By Alexandra Gavril - October 10, 2013

Last months’ big news was that Google are extending the https secure search to 100% of organic searches. This means that if, until now, you were using Google Analytics to track the keywords sending traffic to your site, now you can say goodbye as you can no longer have access to all that valuable data. In other words, you will no longer be able to see the exact keywords used by people to reach your pages from organic search.

Why is Google going dark?

Google justified the change in terms of protecting personal privacy and security. So that third parties could not spy on your search activity on the web. Fair enough. However, what’s interesting is that keyword data is still openly available for site owners who have a Google AdWords account. So, ad search traffic is not fully encrypted if you’re using Google AdWords and are running paid search campaigns on Google. You see it now?

Keeping your keyword research up to date

But don’t panic. There’s still things you can do to get some valuable data and keep your keyword research up to date.

For instance, a way to get access to some (limited) search data is through Webmaster tools. Click on “Search Traffic” from the menu on the left, then on “Search Queries” to see what keywords people use on Google to get to your site. While the data is limited to 2,000 terms and only goes back 90 days, it’s still useful.

Another thing you can do is look at historical data for well performing keywords prior to the SSL switch to Google. Ok, it’s not new data but it’s still valuable as you also get to see the “evergreen” data with keywords that have been performing well for a long period of time.

SEOORB has published a fantastic list of 11 actionable posts on effective ways to determine some of the keyword data that is missing with the new SSL change so do check it out.

Here are my favourite:

1. Smarter Data Analysis of Google’s https (not provided) change – A great post written by Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google and author of analytics books “Web Analytics an hour a day” & “Web Analytics 2.0”. Using step-by-step instructions Avinash shows how to:

  • Establish Macro Content
  • Understand the Performance Profile of not provided traffic.
  • Match up Performance Profile to Brand & Non-brand Visits
  • Establish Conclusions
  • Landing Page Keyword Referral Analysis

2. 7 Best SEO Tips for (not provided) Keywords – Former in-house SEO at SEOmoz and current chief marketer at PlaceFull, Cyrus Shepard shares some useful strategies to help you deal with the “not provided” problem and reclaim your lost data. This also includes buying the data as Google makes it available to anyone who purchases advertising through Google.

3. Set Up Internal Site Search Analytics – Another fantastic post written by Russ Henneberry, content marketer and the managing editor of The Daily Egg, who explains how to set up Google Analytics to track internal search on your website and see exactly what users are looking for – on your website!

The future?

We don’t know what the feature holds but one thing is for sure. Google’s encrypted search is here to stay. So, stop complaining about it and get your SEO professionals to work. With high quality content and SEO professionals who can adjust and compensate for the missing data, you have a good chance at keeping your rankings high.

What do you think about Google’s move? And what are you doing to keep your keyword research up to date? Share your thoughts and opinions in a comment below.