Google’s recent decision to encrypt all organic search keyword data shook up the SEO industry, but one of my search peers explained the breaking news best when he proclaimed, “What did you expect from Google, a red carpet forever?!”
Maybe it’s best for all of us in the search marketing world that this data is now being hidden, because with the explosion of social media, video consumption and mobile adoption rates, all marketers are now required to understand what the true paths to purchase of our consumers actually look like. Simply analyzing keyword data, as valuable as that information may be, only tells part of the story of what influences a consumer to fill out a form or purchase a product.
Search engine marketers are inherently adept at tracking data in a variety of ways, and it is now that much more important that those of us in this industry ensure all our earned and paid media is tagged properly. In addition, there is now a greater emphasis on content marketing as a means for SEO success. Content marketing, in addition to paid media, is going to influence consumers that much more, regardless of whether or not they found that content via a search engine. Although “not provided” is our new reality, understanding the other channels involved in the purchase cycle is where we need to be focusing our efforts when it comes to data analysis.
Furthermore, that analysis as we know it today is likely going to change, as the “web cookie” days also appear to be numbered, as indicated in recent months. Mozilla’s implementation of blocking cookies has already started the trend; Google, Apple and Microsoft have also been devising plans for new internet tracking technologies that will eventually replace the cookie.
What we can likely expect in the years ahead, from a tracking standpoint, was first introduced by Google as “Estimated Total Conversions:”
This system involves tracking consumers when they are logged into their personal Google Accounts (i.e. Chrome, Gmail, Youtube, Google+) or using mobile devices (especially Android, where all users are required to log in to their Google Accounts). Under this new model, the consumer’s path to purchase is no longer tracked using cookies, but rather estimated within Google’s Network.
We can expect similar methods from Microsoft. as they can also track via their network, which includes the popular Windows operating system and Xbox console.
If you think “not provided” makes data analysis difficult now with respect to a lack in organic keyword tracking, just wait until cookie tracking becomes virtually nonexistent and we are required instead to rely on Google, Microsoft and Apple’s own tracking capabilities in order to access conversion data from multiple sources.
The advent of “not provided” may only be the first in a series of relatively seismic shifts in search marketing.