I’m surprised by the number of people that are aware of Google’s latest “gift” to marketers. While algorithm changes with cute names like Penguin and Panda seem to resonate with the general public, this latest development is something altogether different. It involves the data Google is willing to release about user behavior. The search giant is now encrypting all search queries thereby preventing site owners from seeing the keywords that visitors used to reach their site. Google’s reasons behind this seem questionable, but the fact remains that a comforting piece of the search marketing puzzle was taken away.
So what does ‘Keyword Not Defined’ really mean? The short answer is, not as much as you might think.
As a key performance indicator (KPI) keyword phrase click-throughs help verify the validity of your keyword efforts, but the latest encryption update means you won’t see the direct correlation of the keywords to the target page. However if you are optimizing your content properly you can clearly see what’s working and what’s not. Google’s Webmaster Tools still provide great keyword information about impressions and click-throughs as well as average SERP positions. The trends in Webmaster Tools compared against the organic traffic results in analytics still provide a good picture of keyword performance. Granted, it’s not anywhere near an ideal workflow but we are all hoping that there will be an API for Webmaster Tools in the not too distant future.
At the end of the day, I think it’s a shame to lose any data but the loss may actually help businesses focus on a more holistic approach to assess search marketing. Keyword click through performance provided an easy snapshot to attempt to gauge return on investment (ROI). But the people who work in the marketing trenches know better. It’s only part of the picture and a small one at that. Organic traffic to targeted content, time on site and visitor flow provide a better picture that centers on engagement. Developing content and building engagement on your own branded property is where the real search performance lies.
Search marketing is a great way to connect a need with a solution but if that doesn’t create more sales and revenue for your business it can’t be viewed as a success. In the old paradigm, search can bring them on the lot, but you still have to make the sale. The hand off, and point at which search marketing can be analyzed, is when it delivers an engaged visitor that is interested in the glories of your business. The rest is up to you.
So as the sirens launch into another song about the demise of search marketing and SEO, take a deep breath and relax. Search marketing is alive and well and is still one of the best investments out there to grow your business.