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Google handicaps organic data

Google Analytics Changes

Today’s announcement from Google that is to stop providing certain organic data (most importantly the search phrase) is a blow to those responsible for small business marketing who wanting to develop a data driven organic keyword strategy but don’t have the resources to hire expertise. In a seemingly over zealous action driven by the publics (and by extension, governments) paranoia around privacy, it also serves Googles purpose by increasing the value of the data from paid (Adwords) campaigns which are unaffected by the change.

Google announced it is to further roll out it’s SSL search protocol service making it the default option for users logged in to a Google account. From a user perspective this does not alter the search results, however it prevents the search query from being passed to the sites analytics. Given this change was made under the banner of privacy, it’s interesting to note the all of the data is still passed to Adwords accounts. Googles analytics team blog post suggests this should have a minimal effect on your ability to report on the search data:

How will this change impact Google Analytics users? When a signed in user visits your site from an organic Google search, all web analytics services, including Google Analytics, will continue to recognize the visit as Google “organic” search, but will no longer report the query terms that the user searched on to reach your site. Keep in mind that the change will affect only a minority of your traffic. You will continue to see aggregate query data with no change, including visits from users who aren’t signed in and visits from Google “cpc”. full post

However I’m not certain that is the case given how many assets Google owns. With gmail & YouTube being amount the biggest services, it’s not difficult to imagine a significant number of users being logged in to those services while browsing in another window.

It’s not necessarily all bad news and certainly not the ‘Data Apocalypse’ some are reporting it to be. According to the post on their main blog, webmasters will still be able to see an aggregated view of traffic from the last 30 days:

They can also receive an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to their site for each of the past 30 days through Google Webmaster Tools. This information helps webmasters keep more accurate statistics about their user traffic. full post

Though this separation of data across systems add unfortunate extra steps to the process, the benefit may be to encourage more business owners to use Googles webmaster tools service, which from experience is often overlooked.

The updates are being rolled out over the coming weeks. As is often the case with these changes, the sensible site owner will take some time to consider the possible implications, however it’s will take a number weeks for the impact to be realised (however large or small that is). The lights aren’t being turned off to organic intelligence, but there is not another veritable to consider.

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