Google recently posted an entry on the Official Webmaster Central Blog about the company’s decision to start encrypting search query data for users who are signed into their Google accounts. This means that webmasters will no longer be sent information on what keywords a user typed into Google to find their websites, leading to a loss of valuable data.
While social media—which will only accelerate in importance over the next year—and the increasingly important online coupon dimension of marketing will not be significantly affected, this move by Google may change the whole landscape of internet marketing. It is important to keep in mind that a holistic approach to online marketing includes many dimensions: PPC, SEO, social media, online coupons, email marketing and remarketing.
Users of Google AdWords, the company’s PPC platform, will still receive keyword information from ad clicks, a move that seems to suggest that the search giant is attempting to nudge businesses away from SEO services and toward PPC. Further, all users of analytics services, whether Google’s or a third party’s, will miss out on valuable keyword level data, which could seriously impact the companies that offer analytics packages outside of Google.
It Hurts SEO
Any company that has a targeted SEO campaign (re: any company who knows what they’re doing with SEO) will lose out on valuable metrics for their campaigns. Though only an estimated 1% of users will be affected now, in the future more and more people will be signing up for Google accounts, increasing that number. By not providing keyword-specific data for these users, Google is targeting the SEO industry but attempting to hide its motivations behind the guise of privacy concerns. When SEO professionals can no longer see specific keyword data, they can no longer provide the same level of pinpoint accuracy in their reporting on the effectiveness of their campaigns and could, therefore, lose important business.
It Hurts Users
Many websites use keyword referral data to customize the user experience. If a user comes to a footwear site through the keyword “men’s shoes”, the site can display the page for the men’s shoes category and offer a selection of related products, such as shoe shine kits or men’s socks. By removing that referral data, even from a small percentage of traffic, those sites will no longer be able to rely on customization for providing their users with an exemplary experience, reducing the effectiveness of their site.
It Helps Google
While keyword referrals for organic search results will no longer be passed to websites, keyword data will still be provided for PPC campaigns in Google’s AdSense network. While websites won’t be able to rely on optimizing their landing pages for organic results, they can for ads, which may prompt some businesses to move some funds from SEO to PPC, bolstering’s Google’s already high profits.
It Hurts Competition
There are several SEO analytics tools produced by third parties that use keyword data from Google and Bing to provide functionality not present in Google Analytics. If they begin losing access to the necessary keyword data, their businesses could take a dive. Google’s own analytics tools will continue to function, but will show a new “(not provided)” token in keyword reports. All analytics tools, even Google’s, will suffer a degradation of quality and precision as a result of this change.