As a data driven search marketing company, Google’s steady move towards encrypting all search queries has meant that we have had to find new ways to collate relevant data. If you have been following the metrics in your analytics account, you will have noticed a steady increase in entries marked as (not provided).
This is the notation with which Google have replaced keyword data from secured searches. Previously, this came about when a user was logged into a Google account, under the guise of offering privacy for the user. This level of “privacy” has been steadily increased to include users who are not logged into a Google account. The numbers of (not provided) searches have increased by 30% within the last 6 weeks, taking the overall number to 73.93% of searches (data from www.notprovidedcount.com).
There are many theories within the search marketing world, as to why Google has suddenly made the move to secret search terms, with Search Engine Land creating a comprehensive article on the topic. To summarise, they believe that it probably boils down to a reaction to the PRISM scandal (click here for more information) or a new method of pushing Webmasters into using their ad network.
In light of the recent changes to the Google Keyword tool, it would not be too pessimistic to say that the second option may be the closest to the mark – while the PRISM affair has led to some competitors (DuckDuckGo for example) making small user gains through their security search branding, the figures will not have significantly affected Google’s bottom line.
While the motivation for the move may not be wholly clear, as a search marketing company, the loss of this data is lamentable and the focus is now how to find a comparable data source. The simple answer is to engage more fully with Google Adwords, as it is apparently not a privacy matter if the publishers pay Google for the privilege of accessing the data. Alternatively, Webmaster tools currently displays 90 days’ worth of keyword data (and the time frame is set to increase to a year), which means that manual data storage will be required in order to detect seasonal trends which are relevant to your site.