Mar 30 2012
If you have/own/manage/support a website or blog I’m sure you’ve cracked open Google analytics at least once to see how many visitors your site has received. Some of us might spend more time in the analytics world but at a base level Google Analytics provides some basic solid metrics (visits, page views, time on site, bounce rate) that any website owner or blogger should be interested in.
As you dig deeper into the data world of Google Analytics curiousity might approach you. For instance, you might want to know how those 15,000 visitors last month reached your site via search engines. Visiting the “traffic sources” section in Google Analytics provides you data on what search engines are used, traffic from Adwords and what keywords are queried to reach your site.
All sound great, right? Google Analytics has all the data and tracking you ever needed? However, a couple of months ago Google started blocking some of the most valuable data that could have been provided to you in analytics. If a user is signed into Google and uses Google to search, the terms they used to reach your site will not be reported in Google Analytics. From Google:
“When a signed in user visits your site from an organic Google search, Google Analytics will no longer report the query terms that the user searched on to reach your site.” Full Google Post
Knowing the terms that are used to reach your site is extremely valuable data. If you are curious or doing any sort of organic optimization, this data is gold. Keywords are the core of SEO and dictate your whole optimization and monitoring strategy. This is huge, with search terms blocked, you are now blind to the queries that are getting used to reach your website. How can we optimize and monitor a website blindly?
Google claims that this was implemented to help protect their users privacy. However, paid search is treated differently, traffic and reporting via Adwords will not be affected by this change. So, privacy is only important for organic searches and not paid searches? Interesting… you do have to pay to play right?
Google also anticipated that this change would impact 10% or less of searches. Wrong! Just take a look at a couple of the sites we manage, those numbers are in the 15% -27% range! In looking at site one, for 27% of our search traffic, we don’t know what terms are getting used to reach our site. Take a look at the others too, in 3 out of 4 examples our highest ranking keyword is “not provided.” Awesome!
This is a game changer, as more people sign up with Google and stay logged in while searching, keywords will continue to get blocked in your analytics. It seems really odd that a search engine who relies so heavily on keyword usage and relevance for rankings would want to block this data from us. Google provides keyword research tools and resources to help out website owners. It appears that Google wants to help us make our sites more efficient by the use of keywords. Blocking keywords in analytics inhibits this initiative and will prevent your site from being truly “Google friendly.”