As announced on the 18th of October, Google will start encrypting keyword query data for logged in users, a change driven by privacy concerns. The implication for marketers is that natural search keyword data will become unavailable within analytics packages.
A current estimate is that 10-20% of data might be lost as searches by non logged in users will not be affected. PPC data will also stay, which may seem a bit hypocritical. Still, as Google’s services gain more registered users, the number of affected queries is likely to grow. This can have its negative effects – here are 5 reasons I think this is a bad move by Google.
1. It Will Discourage On-Site Improvements
In most companies – big or small – it is hard to drive on-site changes. Building new content and landing pages, writing more copy, improving site speed and archistecture, these all require considerable effort to implement. The best way for marketers to push things through is to show results and relate on-site changes to revenue. If SEO becomes less accountable it’ll be harder to show success and thus drive future site improvements. Surely in this scenario everybody loses out.
2. It Will Lessen Interest In SEO
SEO does have a bit of a bad reputation, but many link-building activities are good – reaching out to bloggers, connecting with relevant websites, writing informative press releases and articles etc. Usually it’s the SEO channel that pays for all these and if the budget goes, they will go too.
3. It Will Slow Down The Implementation Of Google+
Why would marketers push the use of G+ if its pick up degrades reporting? Well, at least I’ll keep quiet about those +1 buttons for now. This might slow down the growth of G+, which is a shame as it has good potential for both users and advertisers in the future.
4. The S-Word
Which is (kids, cover your ears) synergy. But as much as I hate its overuse in agency pitches, data from PPC can help SEO and – crucially – vice versa. This may not be a biggie, but losing one source of insight will not help improve paid advertising.
5. It Sets A Bad Precedent
It’s bad for privacy to report on keywords? Well, in that case we should remove all data – including PPC. Google may be opening the doors to privacy advocates to limit reporting even further in the future. We may be able to do SEO with bad-quality keyword reporting – but not PPC!
If you’re into SEO and beer, and let’s face it – what else is there really? – then you will be glad to hear that Rand from SEOmoz and Will from Distilled will be buying the rounds tonight. This is happening as part of their Pro SEO Training in London, but this evening the hosts are taking anyone and everyone out to the Crown & Sceptre (on the corner of Great Titchfield Street and Foley Street, near Goodge Street Station) to have a drink and talk SEO from 6pm onwards. Click here for more.
I have other arrangements tonight, involving a guitar and a tutor that never loses hope, so I can’t make it to the pub unfortunately. But if you can, you should.