Google is always tinkering with its algorithms and tools but the company recently phased in a big change that has millions of marketers and business owners talking: Going forward, 100 percent of all organic Google searches will now be covered by the engine’s secure search feature. While we could probably devote a whole thesis – and then some – to the subject, we want to break down what exactly it means for you.
Here’s the background. Since late 2011, logged-in Google users who search for specific terms have produced encrypted results that don’t show up on Google Analytics reports. If you’ve been watching your analytics closely – as you should be – you may have noticed that the “not provided” category constitutes a growing proportion of your website’s keyword search results. While you’re still seeing results for users who use other search platforms, it’s hard to tailor your search engine marketing efforts when you don’t know how a huge chunk of your readership is searching (Google has about 67% of search marketshare).
Of course, Google hasn’t stopped using keywords to determine search relevance. It hasn’t even removed them totally from the view of search engine marketers. If you leverage Google AdWords, that platform’s “keyword planner” is actually more robust than ever. This bears repeating: It’s still possible to do keyword research using the tools that Google provides albeit a bit more difficult.
If you’re committed to using organic Google searches to support your inbound marketing efforts, your company’s Webmaster Tools suite also lets you track up to 2,000 search terms over a 90-day period. While this isn’t perfect, it’s useful for small businesses that rely on a relative handful of important search terms and source regularly updated content to improve inbound search performance. Limited information is better than no information at all, so be sure to configure your site’s Webmaster Tools appropriately. This can help you create and refine your target customer demographic. You can also accumulate relevant data about your audience from social media resources like trending Twitter topics.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that “Google” is not synonymous with “the Internet.” While it remains the undisputed leader in online search and has a huge impact on your site traffic, it’s not the only player in the business. Microsoft’s Bing doesn’t encrypt its search queries, and smaller operators like DuckDuckGo don’t even track their users’ activities.
While we’re at it, let’s get another issue out of the way. Following the shift to fully encrypted organic search results, there’s been a lot of jawing from SEO experts and marketing professionals about Google’s judgment on this issue. Many in the industry firmly believe that the company is flat-out wrong or even malicious for supposedly making it harder for marketers to track and analyze inbound traffic to their sites.
Of course, many of these folks also complained a few years ago when Google changed its algorithms to favor high-quality content over keyword-stuffed copy. In response, we ask a simple question: “So, what?”
We don’t think these changes represent the “death of search,” and neither should you. As one of the world’s most valuable and successful tech firms, Google doesn’t exist to make marketers’ jobs easier. Like it or not, the company will continue to make unexpected changes to its algorithms and announce them after the fact as a courtesy. It’s the job of any competent inbound marketing specialist to roll with these changes and make the necessary adjustments. If you’ve already been curating engaging, relevant content that speaks directly to your target audience, you have a big leg up on the competition. If you’ve only paid attention to site-specific keywords until now, you may have some catching up to do. Fortunately, you’re not riding alone.
Google frequently makes smaller tweaks to keep things fresh, but strong marketers use a diverse portfolio of traffic-reporting resources to create a full picture of your business’s inbound marketing performance. With all the right facts to support informed marketing decisions, you’ll realize that Google’s recent shift to fully encrypted organic search isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it might be the start of something big for your company’s online marketing efforts.
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