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100% Not Provided: A New Era in SEO

5 MINUTE READ | September 24, 2013

100% Not Provided: A New Era in SEO

"Everybody knows you never go full HTTPS." - Kirk Lazarus, SEO

“Everybody knows you never go full HTTPS.” – Kirk Lazarus, SEO

Did you hear the news?!!??!? Wow. What a day. I don’t know about you, but I am totally amp’d. I’m wired. I can’t sleep. GOOGLE IS GOING 100% SECURE SEARCH! TOTALLY ENCRYPTED! THAT MEANS 100% ‘NOT PROVIDED’. I know, right? It’s like the news of the century!

The day many SEO professionals hoped would never come, but feared eventually would, apparently has arrived today. It appears that Google has cut off keyword data altogether. — SEWatch

Various sites are reporting that the [NOT PROVIDED] percentage of organic keyword referrals has jumped from 50-60% up to 95%, 99% or 100%. — SEJournal

We Saw It Coming

In all honestly, ever since Oct-2011 (when Google unveiled the ‘Not Provided’ thing), we have all been awaiting the day that Google decided to go 100% ‘Not Provided’. Over the past 23 months, we have seen that ‘Not Provided’ keyword data creeping up to 10%, 20%, 30%, 40% – and lately it’s been over 50% for nearly all of our clients. In many ways, it was like we were slowly going blind. Our visibility into keyword data was slowly and consistently disappearing every time we logged into our various analytics platforms.

‘Not Provided’ Trend Data from NotProvidedCount.com

Now that we are living a world where Google is running every search through HTTPS, we are truly entering a new era of SEO. One day, we will tell stories of the day that Google took away all of our data. Today’s news represents is a metaphorical line in the sand.

Based on everything I’ve read, here is what we know (as of today):

  • Danny Sullivan wrote that Google confirmed the change in today’s post over at SELand: http://searchengineland.com/post-prism-google-secure-searches-172487

  • It doesn’t appear that we have actually reached 100% ‘Not Provided’ yet, but the change to all HTTPS will push us a lot closer to 100% Not Provided. And that day could come very soon.

  • We will still get keyword data from Yahoo/Bing, so depending on how much traffic those drive to your sites, you’re overall keyword data will not reach 100% Not Provided…unless Yahoo & Bing decide to go this route someday.

  • If you haven’t set up the PPC+SEO Report in Adwords, you should do that immediately. It’s the only place you’ll be able to get organic click and impression data at the keyword level for your sites. Of course, it’s pulling in much of the data from Google Webmaster Tools, but it’s nice to have all the PPC & SEO keyword data in one report. Furthermore, there is no sign of ‘Not Provided’ in that report.

Analytics: What About Conversion Data?

The part that is bothering me the most is that it seems like we have lost the ability to match an organic search to a conversion. If all of my Google keyword data is ‘Not Provided’, how will I know if a specific keyword drove an order? The PPC+SEO Report in Adwords is great, but there is no conversion data in that report. It appears that we will soon lose the ability to track revenue by keyword, conversion by keyword, AOV by keyword, etc… That is going to be tough, especially for clients where we measure brand vs non-brand traffic and revenue and other KPIs based on keyword groups. I’m hoping someone will tell me I’m wrong on this one. Maybe it’s a dream. Maybe I will wake up soon and it will go back to the way it was. #memories

SEO Will Go On…With or Without Keyword Data

I still can’t believe this is actually happening. Maybe it’s just because it happened without warning. Regardless, my mind is racing with questions. The biggest question is: What happens now?

The fact is that SEO is always evolving. It’s the thing that I love about my job the most – I’m constantly adapting and learning in an environment that is always transforming. It really keeps us on our toes. To me, the fundamental idea behind SEO is that SEO has always been about driving free traffic from search engines (and other sources, too). Even with today’s news, that concept is not changing. It’s not as if our strategies, tactics, methods, and responsibilities disappeared today along with the keyword data. SEO lives! It’s not going away!

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We will wake up tomorrow and continue to do our best to drive traffic to our clients’ sites. It is that simple. Sure, today’s news is going to have an impact on our reporting and how we measure success. And I’m sure it will also impact some of our strategies. But we are used to that. W are not continually having to modify our existing SEO strategies (see: local, mobile, social, Panda, Penguin, etc…). This is just another event in a long line of events that changed the world…of SEO. So I say: BRING IT ON. LET’S DO THIS.


Posted by Kerry Dean

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