Keyword research for SEO purposes has for many years been the foundation point of an Internet marketing campaign. Research the keywords that people are using to discover your site and then you can take advantage of that knowledge to drive ever more traffic to your site.
However, in recent months Google began encrypting some of the organic keywords returned in Google Analytics results with ‘not provided' appearing where previously the list of keywords would have shown.
So it is with no real shock that Google made an announcement at the end of September 2013 stating that virtually all organic keywords will be encrypted going forward.
For people who keep an eye on the world of Google news, this won't be too much of a shock as it has likely been on the cards for a while.
However, the news has not been taken lightly by the SEO community and many are up in arms over this development.
When approached by Search Engine Land, Google reportedly confirmed the switch, with a quote as follows:
“We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year. We’re now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in.”
In a nutshell, this confirms that you can no longer retrieve keyword data from your site visitor's Google organic search activity.
It is not really the end of the world because Google are entitled to set the rules of their existence and if we all want to use Google, we have to abide by those rules or find an alternative.
Of course, it is worth remembering that AdWords* traffic is not subject to such restrictions and you can get full visibility and tracking of the keywords delivering visitors to your site by running a PPC campaign.
There is no doubt this will change the way marketing and SEO professionals prepare their SEO campaigns in the future.
However, it does not be the end of SEO and in light of the ever increasing manipulation of keyword data for spammy purposes, it may prove to be the beginning of a more robust SEO campaign environment.
Since the crackdown on paid link schemes and clearly orchestrated SEO campaigns in recent times, it has become apparent to talented SEO's that the way forward is to generate good quality content that provides the user with a genuine benefit, rather than simply creating content to satisfy the existence of specific keywords.
Hopefully, this move by Google will encourage more marketers to follow suit and provide better quality content to their site visitors.
Another reason this move was imminent is the ongoing concerns regarding online privacy, in particular, the PRISM scandal and accusations of NSA spying activity.
By allowing the keyword data to be accessed unencrypted, Google could be deemed to be liable for allowing personally identifiable information to be discovered. It is also a competitive issue. Google is a business and they make money from AdWords* campaigns. More people will be enticed to use AdWords* if they still feel the need to access the data.
In the online world of Internet marketing, change occurs on a fast-paced basis and is inevitable. So what are the alternatives? Bing and Yahoo continue to offer search results so your keyword data can be accessed through either of them.
If you are a serious marketer then it will do no harm to spend a little time and money experimenting with AdWords* in order to garner some solid data for use in your marketing and content strategy.
*AdWords was renamed Google Ads in 2019