Google (Not Provided) = The Keyword Is Dead

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Google has just hammered the final nail in the keywords coffin.

Last week the search engine announced they’d be encrypting (i.e. hiding!) all search data.

I was like Google, WTF bro? You’re telling me that now all we’ll see when looking for keywords that are driving traffic to our websites is “Google Not Provided” or (not provided)?

In my opinion, and I’m sure many other digital marketing agencies, SEO companies, and internet marketing consultants would agree, Google, the search engine, clearly works in favour of the user and not in favour of the SEO.

The threat of the Google Not Provided text replacing actual keywords is a reality, but certainly not the end of the SEO world.

I’d agree that all this is fair – after all, Google is made for the user to find answer to their questions and/or solutions to their problems. Google’s also made for us SEO’s to manipulate in favour of our client’s websites. So listen up “Google Not Provided” because it’s Game on!


Is Organic Growth Dead Too?

Switching gears quickly to social media, from SEO/SEM, to help illustrate my point: I think my peers would also agree that organic growth with any social media is on the decline. In fact, trying to grow a Twitter or Facebook following, strictly organically, is becoming an increasingly challenging task.

For example, Facebook will only allow you to reach 16% of your total business pages fan base organically. But, if you ‘boost’ your post, i.e. pay to have your post promoted, you’ll end up reaching many more of your fans or gain new Page and Post likes. The more you pay (read invest), the more people you will reach. Hey all’s fair in love and war and now with Facebook.

No need to sweat this, it’s just business right? It’s simply just social networks and search engines doing an amazing job at offering us a useful and addictive free service and once we’re hooked, they throw in their successful monetization plan. Freakin’ drug dealers!


So What Has Google Been Quietly Doing?

Google does the same thing to us and you may or may not have even realized it. Remember “Dark Google” from a year ago? If you’re a website owner and you’ve logged into your Google Analytics dashboard to take a look at what’s up with your website you may know what I’ getting at – the dreaded “not provided”, please read on.

Most SEO’s and website owners will want to take a look at how users are getting to their website. A number of analytics will tell you this in a number of different ways. You can find out how many users came to your site through a Google search, from a referring website, as well as who landed on your site by typing in your url directly.

One of the valuable bits of data I enjoy mining through are the keywords used to find my client’s content. You know what’s hilarious? Google has been hiding the #1 keyword, search phrase, or search term that the majority of people used to find your website. Why do I think that’s funny? I don’t, but you have to laugh it off because…well you have to, it’s Google.

Why does Google hide this valuable information in this awesome free tool called Google Analytics that they recommend you sign up for? Why do you think? My guess is it’s to encourage paid search engine marketing possibly through their Google AdWords product. I mean why else would you hide this useful information?

Get this, from

“In the past month, Google quietly made a change aimed at encrypting all search activity — except for clicks on ads. Google says this has been done to provide “extra protection” for searchers, and the company may be aiming to block NSA spying activity. Possibly, it’s a move to increase ad sales. Or both. Welcome to the confusing world of Google secure search.”

Let’s look at the history for this keyword hiding/blocking:

Two Years Ago: Secure Searching For Logged-In Users

In October 2011, Google began encrypting searches for anyone who was logged into Google.

The reason given was privacy. Google said it wanted to block anyone who might potentially be eavesdropping on a string of searches made by an individual and also prevent the actual search terms themselves from being seen by publishers, as some of them might be too “private” to reveal.

This Month: Secure Searching Being Made Default For Everyone

Now, Google has flipped on encryption for people who aren’t even signed-in. When asked about this last week, Google confirmed the shift, saying: 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.”

It should be noted here that the percentage of search terms as “not provided” has increased as Mozilla’s Firefox (July 2012), Apple’s Safari iOS 6 (September 2012) and Google’s own Chrome browser in January 2013 have all used encrypted search, even when people aren’t signed in at Google.


How Does This Affect My Website’s SEO?

It doesn’t. Well not really. What it does affect is you or your SEO’s ability to analyze what keywords are regularly bringing the most traffic to your website. This info helps further develop your SEO strategy.

This information also shows you what keywords are bringing in less traffic to your site. When a good SEO uses and analyses that information, it can lead youth creating pages based on these newly found keywords or further optimizing pages using these new keywords.

The reason of redoing this is say a search term of “abc” brings in just 50 visitors to your site. You may think this is a useless keyword – since it’s only brought in 50 visits. Where as other keywords are bringing in way more traffic. So your may be asking, why focus on a keyword that’s bringing in little traffic?

The reason is because Google has already indicted your site for that ‘new’ keyword that you haven’t used in your website optimization. Instead you’ve used other words that are clearly bringing in lots of traffic. Why not create a blog article or a new webpage within your site that is optimized for this new keyword?

If you received 5 hits to a page that wasn’t optimized for that keyword query, imagine how many meow new visits you’d get if you optimized that particular page for that new keyword, added a blog article, and/or added a new page that is optimized using this newly discovered, indexed, keyword.

Over the last two years, Google has been hiding the top keywords used to access your website. Instead of showing the keyword, the key phrase, or the search term, the user used to get to your site, they encrypt the data and instead show “not provided”.

When a large number of keywords is grouped collectively under the banner of “not provided” automatically denies website owners and SEO’s fundamental information about how their site is performing in organic search.

Marketing Land wrote a nice article titled “No Data For You, SEO Experts Offer Opinions on Google’s Move to Withhold Data” which offers a number of insights from professionals like Stone Temple’s CEO Eric Enge and LunaMetrics SEO project manager Reid Bandremer. Read it to get their take.

Check out this graph provided by which shows a steady increase in “not provided” activity. The key takeaway here is to see the activity in the past month. Note that this increased encryption by Google has produced a dramatic spike.

=””>google encrypts keywords with (not provided)

This makes you wonder if one day all search data will become “not provided”. Google’s official reason for this change is strictly protecting the privacy of their users. Google states that users searching with a secure Google connection would not want their privacy respected and would not want their search terms to be passed on to anyone let alone the website owner.

But guess what? Google is totally willing to overlook these privacy issues when it comes to their Google Adwords paid product!

Did you know that all sites using Google AdWords continue to receive full keyword data as they always have.

Hypocrisy or Bullsh*t? I like what Danny Sullivan had to say: Google Has Put A Price On Privacy.


Why Is Google Blocking Keyword Data?

There have been a few reasons speculated.

Some are saying this move is done by Google to block out the NSA. It’s no secret the National Security Agency has been been spying on us all.

Others say that this moves is for the sole purpose for Google to boost their ad sales.

Here’s what Google says in an updated statement from SearchEngineLand:

From Google: “We want to provide SSL protection to as many users as we can, in as many regions as we can — we added non-signed-in Chrome omnibox searches earlier this year, and more recently other users who aren’t signed in. We’re going to continue expanding our use of SSL in our services because we believe it’s a good thing for users…. The motivation here is not to drive the ads side — it’s for our search users.”

Again I ask, Hypocrisy or Bullsh*t? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


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