Once Google flipped the all-encryption, all-the-time switch, though, Google Analytics keyword data was completely altered. Instead of seeing a list of phrases such as career coach and career counselor, users see one thing: (not provided). In short: No more keyword data in Google Analytics to help develop and fine-tune your content.
However, Google continues to provide keyword traffic data to those who buy pay-per-click (PPC) Google ads. That's why some speculate that Google's real reason for fully encrypted search is to drive AdWords sales.
What does it mean for SEO? "The encryption of all keyword data is a blow to SEO professionals and webmasters, a clear renewed declaration of war on the SEO industry," DeMers says. "It's a message that Google doesn't want people to obsess over individual keywords but, rather, on simply creating and publishing awesome content."
Neil Patel, writing on the QuickSprout blog, offers three steps to take in the wake of "not provided:"
- Stop worrying about Google. "If you have an awesome service or product, you're producing great content, and you're building legitimate and relevant links, you should do fine," Patel notes. "Plus, if you aren't ranking for all of your keywords, it doesn't mean that you won't do well as a business."
- Create "awesome" content. "Instead of spending your money on paying SEO firms to build or buy links, you should focus on creating awesome content as it will generate more social shares and natural links," Patel advises. This, in turn, can help your content rank highly in search queries.
- Turn to alternative sources for keyword data. Google Webmaster Tools still provides some keyword data, including a list of top keywords, the number of impressions and clicks each keyword delivered, the click-through rate and average position. Just log into Webmaster Tools and go to Search Traffic > Search Queries.
Google Keyword Planner: No More Organic Keyword Research
What is it? Google Keyword Planner is the successor to Google's AdWords Keyword Tool.
The AdWords Keyword tool had been "the foundation of SEO campaigns" for years, DeMers says. "Because it was free and provided all the information necessary to conduct keyword research, it was the first place most SEO professionals visited when planning a new SEO campaign."
For example, many SEO professionals used the Keyword tool to discover the local or global search volumes for specific keyword phrases and how competitive each phrase was.
"The keyword volume numbers were more trustworthy than other keyword tools because they came right from the source, and who better to know what kind of search volume keywords get than Google itself?" says Ruth Burr, inbound marketing lead at Moz, which provides SEO and social media analytics software as a service. (Burr wrote about the Keyword Planner on the Moz blog.)
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