Google, keyword research and marketers

Google is killing keyword research

Well, hell.

Figuring out how folks found your website and landed there has gotten a whole lot harder thanks to Google. A staple tool of webmasters (novice and pro alike) and marketers – keyword research – is changing or disappearing.

Google has basically ‘hidden’ the search results of ALL users – not just those logged in to various Google properties – from its keyword research. These 2 reports tell all in detail:

HubSpot –

Search Engine Land –

 What's been happening with keywords and search terms?

If you have a website you very likely have a Google Analytics account to see where your traffic is coming from and if you are doing well for the key terms that are important to your site. Using Google for open keyword research has been a standard tool for website owners and marketers. BUT … If search terms are encrypted (hidden) then what gets passed to Analytics is “not provided” for that given term. And there has been a huge spike in the number of “not reported” showing up for many sites.

Keyword results 'not provided'
% of terms ‘not provided', from Search Engine Land


Why has this happened? And do we believe Google's explanation?

2 main reasons are being thrown around for why Google has done this. And it’s questionable which might be the driver in this – if either is accurate.

1)    Because they’re getting slammed for supposed cooperation with the NSA and the NSA’s huge dragnet of web data. Google has also been losing some traffic to sites like Duck Duck Go which promise ‘secure search’ to begin with.
Irony – Google has said it wants to be more ‘transparent’ in regard to requests from spying entities – sooooo, they’ve hidden the data – from everyone.

2)    Ad dollars. Money. Because what is NOT encrypted are clicks on ads.
Ads Google sells.
And Google wants more people using AdWords (it had already started making it harder to get free Keyword data without having an AdWords account). Google can say all it wants about this encryption being ‘a good thing for our users,’ but I think they really mean for users of their ad buying tools.

If you want a very nice recap of how tracking works for search terms and page analytics – see this post from HubSpot earlier this year (when they were pondering if 2013 was the year keyword research disappeared – looks like they were right. Unfortunately.)

What can you do to learn about where your traffic is coming from?

Try Bing and Yahoo. Or or even AOL. Yes, they have small pieces of the search market – but since they often return much of the same data as Google, they may act a bit like proxies for learning about search habits.

AdWords. Sigh.

You don’t (as of now!) have to actually buy pay-per-click ads from Google in AdWords – BUT if you link your new AdWords account to you Google Analytics account you can do some keyword research.

Tell me what other work-arounds YOU'VE found for doing keyword research!

About the author 

Jennifer Burke

I want all of my solopreneur pals to feel confident and mighty in their marketing - sharing what makes their work special and so vital to their clients. No B.S. or fluff here. I do the digging and research for you, translate "marketing-ese" into simpler terms, and help you avoid marketing headaches.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}