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Google To Stop Passing Keyword Data

By Eric Miltsch on Sep 24, 2013

keyword data not provided

















Well, it's finally happening. Google has announced that it will stop passing along organic keyword values to Google Analytics. The values will not flow through as users are being directed to the secure version of Google. Even if you type in your browser will redirect you to the secure version. (https)

Why are they doing this?

Basically this does two things. It keeps the SEO's guessing and more importantly it puts the focus squarely on content. Google wants websites to be important with regards to the quality of their content rather than just the quality of the marketing ability. 

Some may argue a Google-conspiracy theory at work in that this will just push more activity to Google Adwords (Adwords keyword data will still flow through to analytics) and therefore help drive revenue. Hooray for shareholders if that's the case; Booo for website owners and those just relying on organic activity.

Keyword data will still flow for Yahoo and Bing - and I believe there is a huge opportunity for many sites to grab valuable long tail traffic from those search engines as well.

So. What should you do?

My first thought is to make sure you have your pages cleaned up and organized. Get rid of duplicate titles and description. Organize your organic efforts and be sure you're tracking your keywords and their respective pages within your software - regardless of who is managing the efforts. You need to know where you rank, what the long term performance of that page is and how it performs.

Are you creating individual content for that page? Do you have something different (something different than the thousands of other pages that have been created by your website vendor for the other dealers on the same platform?) 

Are you tracking the performance of the pages and their content? Here's an example of a custom Google analytics report you can use to easily track how your pages are performing: Content Efficiency AnalysisBe sure to set up your goal conversion tracking to track the form activity. 

Do you have custom tracking numbers on your pages? Track as much as possible. 

And lastly - Merchandise as best as possible. You're still going to drive valuable traffic to your site, so make it all worthwhile for the visitors. You know the drill: 35+ photos real videos, price, location, phone number, history reports, etc. And make sure sure the photos are high quality, in a photo booth if possible with great lighting. This all comes together like a puzzle to drive results. 

Nobody knows for sure where the analytics reporting is headed, but we've known this day was coming. Maybe Google is done giving this product away for free. They have plenty of data; paid analytics could be the next step. (I've also said it for a while - this is the beginning of the Semantic Web/Structured Data...more on that in another post)

Don't be left behind and neglect the best practices for on-page optimization, usability and tracking keyword ranking with helpful search programs.

How do you see this changing your activities?  


You scooped me... Let me add my own take on this here too..

Your website provider can no longer report what keywords website visitors used to find your website using

This is great news for the real SEO firms in the space and traffic centric Social Media providers

You can still determine what keywords your site is getting traffic from using Google tools. Google will provide the keyword data in Webmaster Tools so the data is still available for now. If you are using Adwords to drive traffic the keyword data is available and this seem to be the end plan.

There are several software tools that will help you determine where your sites ranks for keywords and you will still get the data on search referrals from Yahoo and Bing. It is just Google, for now, that is being over protective of their keyword data and in the process forcing website owners to verify their site with them. Eventually the data from Webmaster Tools should become available in Google Analytics but it will not be available to your website providers reporting software.

Dealers need to make sure they have Google Analytics installed on their website and that their site is in webmaster tools using a Google account they control not one created and maintained by their website provider. You do not want a website provider using their Google account for this purpose at all. If they have their own Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools on your domain you must insist they remove it and add you as an admin for your website profile for you to maintain the data. (A whole blog post in and of itself the many many reasons why.)

Sep 24, 2013

Thanks Paul - yet another reason to focus on the goodies WMT (still) provides!

Sep 24, 2013

Thanks for the post Eric! As Paul mentioned, Google Webmasters will still show the search queries (for how long that's anyone's guess). I think this makes connecting Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics even more important for businesses ( found in Google Analytics under Traffic Sources --> Search Engine Optimization ). It's easy enough to do but this is often neglected in the setup process.

Sep 25, 2013

Thanks for adding those steps Bruce.

Still puzzled why the vendors don't emphasize WMT (I have a thought, but that's another conversation) I see that many will add the verification tags but it's never integrated with their Google analytics. Plus, with the new tracking code it's as simple as clicking the verify button within WMT - no additional steps needed now.

Sep 25, 2013

If I were to make a speculation we are going to probably see a consolidation of Google services over the next 12 to 24 months when it comes to WMT, Analytics and Adwords. If that happens it will really make an even bigger impact on the marketplace.

Your right Eric. Maybe we should coauthor a piece on why vendors avoid WMT.. Many don't like to add analytics and this change will completely disrupt home grown reporting that most of the providers offer.

Your server logs are blank...

Sep 25, 2013

Right on Paul - the reporting will most likely become less fragmented, all three sources will become one destination (maybe even a paid version)

I believe we'll see deeper versions of the structured data markup tools available as well.

Sep 25, 2013

+Paul Rushing- You made some valid points! I agree that this is good news for SEO companies. No longer can "so called" SEO companies just send a ranking report of the top 20 keywords. You can still get keyword data from Google Analytics but you need to work harder to get the data. Branded vs non branded and tracking buckets of head terms will be useful. The complexity of SEO just increased and this will benefit the Savy dealerships

I agree with Eric that you will need to look at content pages instead of keywords. As always it comes down to creating a unique user experience with content that the user is looking for. Funny thing is SEO experts have been saying that keyword rankings is irrelevant for over a year now. Now that the keyword ranking are gone everyone is up in arms. It is like the keyword ranking gods struck back at the SEO experts

You can link Webmaster tools to Google Analytics currently to view links, search queries, and sitelinks . here is info

I do agree that Google is pushing publishers to use the AdWords platform and here is why I think that.

Google recently added a new report in Google AdWords called Paid/Organic. You need to link Google Webmaster Tools to Google AdWords (Link Below). This report is located in AdWords under the dimension tab and it listed under Paid/Organic. The new paid & organic report is the first to let you see and compare your performance for a query when you have either an ad, an organic listing, or both appearing on the search results page. It is important to note that you can view ALL keywords where Google served your SERP either paid or organically. This means that you do not need to be bidding on paid keywords to see the data. You can setup a shell account to view the Keyword data.

This is going to force a ton of publishers to use the AdWords platform to view keyword data. It is the hope of Google that publisher will see how much opportunity they are missing and will be compelled to use Google AdWords. Google recently extended the Top Search queries report from 90 days to 1 year.

On a big picture level, I think that Google will soon be moving away from tracking individuals with cookies ( Cookie technology is used to determine consumers interest so relevant ads can be served). I believe that Google will soon be assigning everyone an anonymous identifier for advertising or AdID. This will give users more control over how they are tracked online but it will give all the power to Google. Google is looking for the same type of data that Facebook has, which is incredible. Google has been working hard to track users across multiple devices and to track offline conversions. Both Universal Analytics and offline conversions confirm this. Links below.

Would you give up keyword data to track offline vehicle purchases? Let me know your thoughts?
Offline Tracking
Universal Analytics


Sep 25, 2013

I absolutely love the graphic used in the post. It sums up the topic in one picture.

Oct 1, 2013

Hah Matt - was wondering if someone would notice that:)

Oct 1, 2013


(it's a bug but thought I'd scare someone here)

Oct 1, 2013

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