Last year when Google announced that they were going to make search more secure and this would impact keyword data I saw the whole thing as a bit of a storm in a teacup. It was estimated to impact about 10% of all search queries but in my experience thus far it seems to be affecting a higher proportion than that. Now that Firefox is going to use secure search by default the volume of ‘not provided’ keyword data is set to grow even further.
I do believe that it is a huge double standard on Google’s behalf given that it doesn’t apply to paid search traffic but the bigger issue in my mind is that it will allow very poor SEO agencies to thrive.
It is standard practice in MediaVision to report on brand vs. non brand search traffic which I believe gives the client a true reflection of our effect on their business. We have however won several clients recently that were all astounded when we showed them how poor their SEO campaign ROI actually was. In all cases there was a huge amount of brand search revenue which was all rolled together and reported as an overall ROI. When the client challenged their previous search agencies for growth figures for 2012 their agencies were very cagey and this, in my opinion, was very much due to their reliance on this reporting “strategy”.
With the advent of ‘not provided’ replacing the keywords within analytics it muddies the water further as these agencies can attribute the ‘not provided’ keyword within the non-brand segment and claim the revenue as non-brand. This would show good year-on-year growth but actually this is just misattributing revenue from brand search. It is of course possible that the converse is true but either way the lack of the referring keyword data does quality SEOs a disservice.
I do get that the upheaval will result in innovation within the industry in much the same way that we are far less ranking obsessed than we were say five years ago. It also illustrates the percentage of personalised search that you can use social tactics to engage and optimise on that level. I just feel that it doesn’t serve a client well and it becomes too easy to incorporate ‘not provided’ into non brand reporting.