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Google Changes Keyword Data Availability

Friday, November 04, 2011   0 Comment(s)  

Google AnalyticsGoogle has announced a change with immediate effect to the way it passes search data information. If a visitor comes to your site using Google search, AND they are currently logged in to their Google account, you will no longer see the keyword data in your analytics reporting.

So What?

What this means is that for a significant portion of your traffic is that you will not be able to see what search terms they typed in. You can see what page they landed on, but not what they were looking for.

This has implications for how you look at visitors and new page creation. Previously, if you saw a large number of visitors bouncing (leaving the page without reading more), then you could look at the keywords they were using, and decide if you needed to add more information, provide a link to a different page, or write a whole new page.

For ecommerce sites, the keyword data may be a prompt to get a new product line, or improve the description to demonstrate how this matches the search.

What Can I Do About This?

Unfortunately, the answer is 'not much'. No matter which analytics package you use, Google will no longer pass the data. One possible alternative is that keyword data will still be available for paid clicks from Google Adwords, but not only does this become expensive, but traffic from paid clicks often acts differently from natural search traffic.

Why has Google Made This Change?

Google said that the change was for security. They said that "as search becomes an increasingly customized experience, particularly for signed in users, we believe that protecting these personalized search results is important" (Google Analytics Blog). Various bloggers have theorised that it is to promote a new premium version of Analytics, or to push people to using adwords, but so far this does not really appear to be true. They are hoping to retain their search market share by re-assuring searches that thier information will be safe.

How Do I Know If This Affects Me?

Go into your Analytics for the last few days, and check the 'keyword' data. if you can see a value of '(not provided)', then this is traffic that is coming from logged in Google users.

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