On 23rd September 2013, Google confirmed changes were coming in relation to the keyword data it provides in Google Analytics. They are currently working on encrypting all keyword search data, meaning that your ‘Not provided’ keywords will soon reach 100%, as no such data will be provided in Google Analytics.
Content marketers and SEO’s are already familiar with the ever increasing number of ‘not provided’ keywords that Google Analytics was already reporting. Indeed, this has been the case since late 2011 when Google first started to encrypt the searches made by users logged in to Google.
Whilst this has had an impact, resulting in a rise in the number of ‘not provided’ keywords reported, this still accounted for a relatively small proportion of keyword searches, and a good amount of keyword search data was still available in Google Analytics.
Keyword searches will now be encrypted for all users
That has now changed however and Google now plan to encrypt searches for all users regardless of whether they are logged in and conducting searches via a secure SSL connection or not. Google claim to be protecting the privacy of their users in doing this, and whilst the change hasn’t happened yet, it certainly sounds like it is imminent.
As to why Google has made this decision, the reasons are currently down to pure speculation. The prevailing thinking is that the decision might have been made in an effort to block agencies such as the NSA. Earlier this year, Google was accused of cooperating with in order to provide them with direct access to its search data, something Google strongly denied.
Another reason why Google might have done this is to force businesses into using Google AdWords. By paying for clicks on certain keywords, they in turn will have access to the keyword data that is set to be removed from Google Analytics.
According to Search Engine Land, keyword data will still be available through Google Webmaster Tools, but I do speculate as to how long this will remain the case and believe it to be more than feasible that keyword data will also be removed from Webmaster Tools at some point.
The information available through Google AdWords whilst not perfect, is excellent when you consider the fact it is free. Perhaps this was an inevitable step, taking away access to more data forces businesses to go down the paid routes of either PPC and Google Analytics Premium.
Whilst reducing free features in many ways is understandable, it is worth considering the fact that not all businesses have the budgets available to compete effectively in paid search and all but the biggest global brands will be able to meet the absurdly high annual fee for Google Analytics Premium (which if you are wondering costs £90,000).