Google scares the pants off the SEO industry by removing Analytics keyword data

Summary:It's time to sit back and watch the SEO industry flip out as Google seemingly cripples CRO (Conversation Rate Optimization) by removing Google Analytics keyword data from encrypted searches. Let this post ground you a bit.

If you haven't heard yet, Google has decided to automatically enable encrypted browsing for searchers who are signed into their Google accounts. The goal, Google says, is to protect the privacy of their users by not relaying any search query information to Web sites a user clicks through to.

In the SEO industry, that translates to a potentially severe drop in Analytics keyword data since you won't be able to see the keywords that an encrypted search yields a click-through for. In other words, gauging the conversion rate and performance of keywords for your site may have just become a bit more difficult. I say "may have" because you really don't know yet. More on that in a bit.

Now, you may say that's all fine and well if you're the one who's browsing; Google's intentions seem to be in the right place where the searcher is concerned. However, the grab to this whole thing that has many SEOs up in arms is that all encrypted search query data will still go to Google AdWords advertisers. This very point alone makes Google's whole "privacy" thing -- including their "Good to Know" endeavor they've quietly launched -- seem disingenuous. But is it?

Playing the devil's advocate here, think of it like this: using encrypted browsing in Google only provides my search query information to advertisers, instead of advertisers and every other site I visit. If you didn't have a problem with advertisers getting a hold of your data before, why do you now? Did you not know before that your search queries were being used for other purposes? Is the problem that advertisers get your search data, or that Google's encrypted browsing seems like a halfhearted effort? All or none, or is "some" okay? Again, I'm just playing the devil's advocate there. My personal feelings lie somewhere between the extremities of both views.

I get it that Google's privacy motives leaves a lot to be desired in the eyes of many. No, I don't believe they have malicious intentions in mind, but rather, dollar signs. And really, how is this any different than it was before they implemented this? I'm not at all surprised they're retaining search data with which to pass on to advertisers! To not do that would be to undermine the very business model that makes them money hand-over-fist.

But back to the Google Analytics keyword issue, I can't help but recall the pandemonium that transpires in the SEO industry every time Google makes a major move like this. True, this one has the potential to shake the firm ground of focal tactics many SEOs have stood upon for years -- not to mention the ever-growing philosophy of CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) -- but we're not really going to know the impact until some time passes and we start seeing data pop up from all over the industry -- never mind your own subset of data for your clients over the course of the next 3-6 months. Remember the absolutely insane reactions to Google Instant? I do. How about Panda? Yep.

Overall, my personal view on it is for everyone to just chill out, give it some time, and see how much YOU or YOUR CLIENTS are actually affected. Any legitimate SEO agency these days should have an amount of transparency and communication great enough to explain to their clients what's going on with Google. But, really, you may not even have to go that far because you may not end up all that affected!

I'm not saying there's no reason for potential concern, but Google JUST did this. Give it some time. This isn't the first time the SEO landscape has changed, nor will it be the last.

-Stephen Chapman

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Topics: Google, Browser

About

Stephen is a freelance writer and blogger based in Charlotte, NC. His contributions to ZDNet cover topics related to security, gaming, Microsoft, Apple, and other topics of interest with a tech/SMB skew.

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