To date the most effective measurement of successful search engine optimisation was done by looking at the keyword the user typed into a search engine to get to the website and buy a product.
For almost two years, Google has been encrypting part of the keyword data that site owners derive from organic search. In October 2011 Google started by concealing the data of those users who were logged into Google and since July 2012 all the keyword data of users who were not logged in while using Firefox, Safari, and Chrome has gradually been encrypted too. Especially during this past month many website owners reported a strong surge of “not provided” results. Currently, they report an 80% encryption of keyword data within organic search, and this value is expected to increase. Since Google began encrypting data, a website called (Not Provided) Count has been measuring the average percentage of “not provided” Google traffic for 60 websites, and is expecting to reach a 100% encryption by the beginning of January 2014.
What does encryption mean from an SEO point of view?
SEO evaluations will see a significant change, which has been discussed by SEO experts for several months: How should you handle keyword data in the future? How can you approach keyword strategies and make keyword recommendations if the necessary data will not be available anymore? And why does Google want to encrypt all keyword data?
In general, it will continue to be important to pay attention to the quality of the content. During this past year it already became clear that page content is increasing in significance. In the future, the content environment will not depend on individual keywords anymore, therefore emphasis should be placed on the content as a whole. For website operators it will continue to be essential to maintain and to optimise their content. In addition, Google will continue to make available important figures to help advertisers draw conclusions about which search terms lead the user to the website and then to a conversion. Evaluating by which landing page the organic users entered the website, in combination with a ranking evaluation, can provide information to figure out which search terms were used by users to get there. In general, the evaluation on a landing page level will become more important in the future, this is why data such as the bounce rate, the length of stay, the individual page visits per visitor, and the conversion paths should absolutely be included into the SEO analysis. If a website operator also places paid advertisements for their page, new potential can still be tapped using the SEA data, since in this area the keywords will be maintained.
The “on website” search function can also deliver interesting information to determine additional relevant keywords for a particular website, and to obtain additional rankings by creating high-quality content on the website. Using the on-site analytics it is possible to determine relevant keywords. Website operators should analyze the search queries within their own website, remove potential weaknesses, and place content relevant to these queries visibly on the page.
In addition, activities in social networks should also be monitored to find out which topics are most discussed by the users and what kinds of content is lacking from a social page. Deriving this kind of knowledge from social media can be extremely helpful for content optimisation, since the actual target audience is actively involved. Despite Google’s increasing keyword encryption there is still a lot of data that should be monitored and analyzed from an SEO point of view. However, the future lies not in the perfect keyword anymore, but in quality content.
There is a lot of speculation as to why Google is implementing these drastic changes. One possible explanation would be to strengthen the Google AdWords data, which will still be available, to convince more website operators to place ads on Google. There are also rumors stating that the NSA espionage affair and as a consequence thereof the accusations against Google are the main reason for the encryption. According to the search engine, the encryption is intended to protect the users also when they are not logged into Google. Google’s true motive, however, will remain (as ever) unclear.