It’s bye-bye to monitoring which search terms sent you traffic

And so it came to pass that just short of two years from its inception, the chart at the (Not Provided) Count website passed 75% and looked set to race away to 100%. And webmasters worldwide looked at their Google Analytics, and saw that it was not good. What’s Chris going on about? Here’s a clue in the Google Analytics keyword report for my site yesterday:

Google keyword report

Those are the search terms which people used to find my site. Or rather, they aren’t. Because Google has “not provided” the search terms for nearly all of the visitors it sent. And sadly, it might be all of them by the time you read this.

Of course, this isn’t new. Google started to keep a secret of the search terms some people used to find your site a while back, which is why the (Not Provided) Count website began. But this week the search engine decided to encrypt the lot. It’s all to do with privacy issues, apparently. So it’s bye-bye to monitoring which search terms sent you the most traffic in Google Analytics.

However, nearly all of Google’s income derives from AdWords advertisers, and advertisers need that sort of information. Lo and behold, it’s still available to anyone running an AdWords campaign. People are speculating that this is all a ploy to get more folks to advertise, but quite frankly, any business which is interested enough in analysing its website traffic to have a Google Analytics account is going to be running an AdWords campaign anyway. So it’s only a real disaster for individuals and organisations which would never have advertised themselves. Many of those people are very angry at the moment.

If you’re one of our clients, we’ll help you work round the changes and set up even better ways of investigating what searches are being made out there in the real world. For everyone else, I’ll point you in the direction of Google Webmaster Tools. And maybe people should stop worrying exclusively about the search terms which are getting people to their sites, and more about the pages which are attracting search visits …and why. It might even herald a more holistic view of SEO.