I met the news of Google’s latest change to their search rules with a shrug and a nod. The shrug was my way of accepting the fact that when Google decides to make a fundamental change to how they do search, the rest of the world must simply accept it and move on. The nod was a self-affirmation that now was the time to button up internal processes and regroup on my overall search strategy with our internal team and external SEO gurus.
The backstory here is that Google will no longer provide free keyword data as part of its analytics package. The new encrypted search will make keyword data available only within the AdWords platform. While Google will claim this is to help protect consumer privacy (a response to the NSA leak methinks?) what it really means is Google wants to drive more of its casual freebie users to the paid AdWords platform. Fair enough. There are other ways to get the same or similar data. Bing and Yahoo continue to provide valuable keyword insight that, while much smaller in sample size, do provide quality insights for your team to use for SEO initiatives.
There are common sense steps we, as marketers, should take in response to this. These include (but are not limited to):
- harvesting more SEO data from alternative search engines;
- starting or increasing AdWords expenditures;
- exploring third-party retargeting platforms;
- leveraging external SEO experts;
- and leveraging the tools Google does provide, such as the traffic estimator.
In online marketing, there is always some new event or change in industry behavior that marketers must respond to. In the last few years, there has been the EU cookie law scare, new implementation of Canadian CAN SPAM law and of course, there are the annual changes to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer that cause panic over the embedded privacy features. The panic over these changes if often short-lived, as marketers rethink their programs in the context of new regulations or technology changes.
You Need a Better Toolbox
With the increasing adoption of powerful marketing automation platforms, marketers can take immediate steps to mitigate the impact of external forces such as encrypted search. I would argue that having a well-deployed and integrated marketing automation platform with a team that is trained in its uses will always ensure marketers are prepared to adapt to macro-economic forces.
Marketing automation is the like the toolbox the repairman brings into your house that, when opened, reveals a myriad of steel-forged wonders that can fix and do virtually anything the skilled repairman commands them to do. A marketer, armed with the tools of a marketing automation platform (landing pages, nurture campaigns, website visitor tracking and lead scoring) should re-focus efforts around tried-and-true best practices.
Mitigate Encrypted Search Damage
In the context of the encrypted search, it’s important for marketers to realize that SEO at its core is undergoing significant change. Today, content, in all its varied glory, is the currency of search. Knowing which content elicits the highest response and conversion rates is as important as knowing keyword data. There are several sensible and logical things marketers can begin doing today that will ultimately mitigate the effects of encrypted search by Google. They are:
- Diversify your ad groups – Adjust and allocate PPC resources to ensure you’re still gathering valuable keyword insight from paid campaigns. This means diversifying PPC campaigns and ad groups in a way that allows for better and more targeted tracking of keyword groups.
- Use highly targeted landing pages to disseminate your content – Landing page tools, like the dialogs product inside of SalesFUSION, allow for A/B testing of conversion rates and provide rich metrics on conversions that allow for content optimization.
- Understand your content pull-through – Produce a varied amount of content in the form of articles, blogs, infographics, white papers and video and distribute with tracking URLs to various social networks. Figuring out which type/topic pulls through the higher traffic is as valuable a metric as you can get.
- Focus on the call-to-actions – On your website, in your PPC and social advertising, focusing on the conversion rates to opportunity creation in your CRM can help you determine not only which content pulls through the most leads, but which content results in sales activity.
- Track your sources – Make sure you know where your traffic originates. It’s critical to know which directories, affiliates, partners, search engines and ads are sending the most direct traffic to your website.
Following the common sense steps above, alongside refocusing your analytical efforts on the actual content you produce (and the resulting sales metrics), will mitigate the effects of encrypted search and ensure your organization is performing at the highest level possible.