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Keyword Not Provided and the Search Marketing Death Blow

Search Engine Marketing is hard enough to understand, execute, measure, and sell. Now, with Google’s recent changes, it has become even more so.

Google is now ‘protecting’ all organic searches. This means that “keywords” – the words people type into Google – are now encrypted. Encrypted keywords are can no longer tracked for analysis.

This is huge news in the search marketing world as keywords have been the heart and soul of search marketing.

Keywords not provided in data analysis

Aren’t Keywords Dead?

If you’re referring to that tag you used to have on your website to grab Google’s attention, yes, they are no longer useful.

However, keywords have still played a major role on the analytical side search marketing. We have used them to understand what potential customers are looking for, and where they are when they’re looking. Furthermore, we have used keywords to help track how people are searching online. This information is then used to:

  • Determine search terms are most used to find a specific business (i.e., a company name, general keywords, and keywords search marketer optimize for)
  • Explore a potential customer’s behavior the website

And further used to:

  • Improve user experience to ensure visitors can find information they want
  • Optimize the information structure to facilitate the sales process.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how keyword data analysis could be used properly.

Impact on search marketing

The claims that this ‘non-secure’ data could be used for evil have won out, and a new era of “anti-tracking” has begun. There is no shortage of excellent posts covered by search marketers on the issue. And, there are a lot of great posts that offer clever work arounds too.

But what do these changes really mean?

  • We can no longer distinguish between ‘branded’ and ‘non-branded’ search. For example, people searching for “Adster Creative” versus “edmonton seo company.”
  • It is more difficult to determine which “keywords” are impacting the marketing goals we have set up.
  • We can no longer identify which search terms are used most often.

Keyword analysis makes for impressive looking reports, but if our focus was only on keywords, search rankings, and dare I say, even web traffic, then we search marketers missed the boat.

Impact on the business

I can easily identify how this affects my job as a search marketer, but how does this affect my clients? Their main focus is to grow their businesses using search marketing. Have these changes made their investments pointless? Is Google saying, “Forget decoding and algorithms”? (Recall that SEOMOZ dropped SEO from their name.)

Or, is Google just trying to force businesses to invest in paid search to pad their bottom line? Or, force businesses to use Google Plus and Google Places?

No. We believe Google is strongly encouraging businesses to look beyond keywords and start understanding concepts like Zero Moment of Truth (a.k.a ZMOT), attributed and assisted conversions, and concepts that have real world impact.

These changes are a reminder that the traditional search marketing ecosystem is shifting into a more holistic endeavor.

Moving Forward

Keywords and “Keywords not provided” are only one area search marketers impact. We are still responsible for:

  • Search Engine Compliance
  • User experience optimization
  • Conversion rate optimization
  • Web coding efficiency optimization
  • Conversion funnel optimization
  • User path optimization

Search marketing has always been about connecting the people looking for products and services to the right business. It’s about improving our clients’ online marketing efforts, which includes their customers’ user experience.

So, it is business as usual here at Adster today. I can assure you, 90% of our clients and 95% of the searching public could care less that Google is now protecting searches.

So long as that phone’s ringing, all is right with the world.