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The world of digital marketing has become increasingly competitive over the past few years, and as of late it has taken its biggest hit yet. Not from other agencies of course. Oh no. There has been a disturbance in the force.

Google have gone to the dark side, and on top of their ever changing algorithms, have increasingly introduced their ‘not provided’ notification.

Google "not provided" analytics issue

Keyword research has always been a key part of any SEO strategy. Ranking for keywords, links for keywords, content rich with keywords, tracking keywords. They are…well, pretty key. However it seems more and more of organic search traffic has been branded with the”Not Provided” label, leaving more and more of your analytics left in the dark.

“I’ve got a very bad feeling about this.”

Google rolled out encrypted search in 2011, citing at the time it would affect only a “single digit percentage of all Google Searches”. However as of late, we among many other businesses have seen over a 50% chunk of search traffic falling under that category; which is simply shocking, with it only set to rise as more and more internet users find themselves within the roll out of further encrypted search.

But what does this ‘encrypted search’ actually mean?

Usually in the past, when a visitor clicked on a link in the search results of their chosen search and visited your site, you can view a full URL from the search engine and subsequent results page from whence that particular visitor came. Your analytics software would pick this up as an ‘organic search’ and divvy out the keywords as necessary for your digital marketing pleasure.

However now with so many users carrying out searches whilst signed into their Google Account (which is fairly common lets face it – especially with their recorded 100m active users) their search data is no longer deemed ‘anonymous’ so they have added a securer element to their HTTP.

Adding the ‘S’ to their HTTP results in your browser stripping out the ‘Referrer’ element of the process, leaving the entire digital process null in void. The browser only sends the domain name as your referrer instead of an entire URL. As a result, your analytics is only provided with “” rather than a comprehensive keyword you can use for optimising….anything at all.

As “cause and effect” goes, this is the reason we are stuck with the unpleasant side affect of the ‘not provided’ problem.

“When I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the marketer.”

There is no doubt that as the use of HTTPS continues to rise, the subsequent effect on keyword research and SEO as a whole. It even affects the Google Premium accounts (an even sharper sting than the $90,000pa price tag).

Should the ‘NPs’ continue, we will soon be dropping the ‘SE’ for just an ‘O’, however when it comes to Google PPC, no such deductions seem necessary…

Whilst our keyword research is disappearing before our eyes, seemingly for security reasons, Google are ready to dish out the very same data when it comes to PPC/Paid Adwords traffic.

In short: Pay Google for your advertising and then they will wave the “privacy” reason given for “not provided” data and reveal everything…

As sceptical as we are, it seems there is little we can do about changing the situation (we refer of course to our prior article “Forget the ‘Barrel Roll’…does Google Search have us over one?“) and the relationship between marketers and our master seems to be waning day by day. But what can we do to improve things?

“I suggest a new strategy, R2..”

Well, whilst we can’t quite control the data we’re receiving from tracking keywords and rankings, we can control capturing our visitors when they’ve landed on our website.

As we can no longer see a large proportion of where people have come from, we can still control where they end up. Switch your focus from SEO to OSO – on site optimisation.

  • Identify low and high converting landing pages, and ensure they not only align with your overall marketing strategies, but ensure they are promoted effectively through all your channels too.
  • Give old content a revamp and refresh turning it into higher performing fresh content.
  • Remember to re-promote and reintroduce high converting offers to your users to continue their success and conversions.
Whilst making the most of a bad situation, who knows what else the future holds for Darth Google and their Empire. Fingers crossed we the SEO-ers are part of the rebellion, restoring balance to the universe and what not. In the meantime, lets focus on our ‘OSO’, and perhaps a little more in PPC.

Oh, and uh.. May the force be with you.

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