Since late 2011, Google has been redirecting a growing number of users to a secure page for their search activity (https://www.google.com). These specific searches appear as the keyword “(not provided)” on analytics reports. As a result, all search referring data traditional analytics tools used to understand which keywords drove visitors from Google are blocked.
As soon as Google’s secure search became more and more popular, many marketers saw a percentage of their keyword data in Google Analytics fall into a “(not provided)” category. Previously, a searcher needed to log into his or her Google account in order to yield the keyword “(not provided)”. But Google wanted to provide its users privacy, so this meant that referring keyword data was no longer being fully displayed in analytics. Google took this one step further so that when any user goes to Google to search, they are automatically redirected to the secure version of Google.
The percentage of organic search keyword traffic coming from keywords that were “(not provided)” has grown steadily. Take, for instance, the example of “abc dealer”. About 77 percent of website visits came from the keyword “(not provided)”, resulting in missing Google keyword data.
So what does the loss of keyword data mean for car dealers?
- Organic traffic from Google can’t be tracked at a keyword level via analytics.
- Limited amount of keyword referral data available in Google Webmaster Tools.
- Decrease in visibility for new keyword opportunities based on analytics data.
SEO professionals have used a combination of ranking, traffic, and conversion metrics as the primary Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure performance.
Available Metrics: Overall Organic Search Traffic By Engine; Total Conversions from Organic Traffic / By URL; Search Rankings for Critical Terms; Search Rankings by Page Tags / Types; Search Rankings by Keyword Tag
Unavailable Metrics: Year-Over-Year Brand / Non-Brand Total SEO Traffic; Year-Over-Year SEO Traffic by Keyword Tag; Conversions by Keyword / Keyword Tag; Keyword Traffic Patterns by URL; Long-Tail Keyword Traffic Patterns
So how should the auto industry handle these keyword data changes so that analytics can be more accurately reported? More emphasis will be placed on PPC impression data, which will be the most accurate source of information to identify opportunity, but what KPI set should be used as the primary measure of SEO success?
Dealerships can quickly and effectively respond to negative changes, prioritize resources and accurately report performance to other team members by understanding and identifying SEO performance changes. In the absence of keyword analytics data, new metrics need to be prioritized. While the new metrics aren’t as accurate as keyword level data, they provide a solid alternative to understanding SEO performance.