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What Does it Mean When you See Not Provided Keywords in Google Analytics?

Google Analytics keyword (not provided) and what it means for your SEO strategy.

You may have noticed, starting back in 2011, that your number one keyword was (not provided) in Google Analytics, and over the last couple of years the % of traffic from (not provided) has grown.
Look familiar? Originally, search phrases were only encrypted when a user was logged into a Google service such as Gmail. But over the last couple of years browsers such as Firefox, Safari, and Chrome have made all searches from their browsers encrypted.

Why would Google do this?

There is some speculation that it’s related to recent NSA spying news or that it’s an attempt to push more people to use Google AdWords as keyword information is still available there.

While there may be some truth to that, having observed Google over the last decade and after recently visiting Google, we know firsthand that everything they do is focused on the end user first and that is the searcher. Google makes their money from AdWords yet even with paid search the searcher, not the advertiser, is their #1 priority. This makes sense and they hammer it home with every employee and decision they make. They believe if they have the searchers everything else will follow – and it’s true. It’s the #1 item on their company philosophy (which is worth a read).

“We’re going to continue expanding our use of SSL in our services because we believe it’s a good thing for users….The motivation here is not to drive the ads side — it’s for our search users.”

Official statement from Google via Search Engine Land

What does this mean for your SEO marketing strategy?

While many SEO “experts” are freaking out and think the sky is falling and their entire industry is being threatened, at MODassic we aren’t concerned at all. In fact, it fits in perfectly with our philosophy and how we have approached search engine marketing all along.

At MODassic, we always take a user-centered approach to SEO. While we are a top performing, Google certified agency and do a lot of search-related work, we never get caught up in the latest SEO tactics and daily search algorithm changes. Instead of focusing on what Google is doing today, we look at where they are heading.

We know Google is interested in providing the most relevant and accurate search results to users. Therefore, we focus our entire inbound marketing, digital strategy, SEO efforts (whatever you want to call it) on creating the most relevant content, converting prospects into leads, and nurturing those leads into customers.

Seeing what keywords drove traffic was definitely nice and was something we looked at and reported on — primarily because it was something clients like to see. But for us it has never directed strategy. We simply looked at it and then got back to work.

In the old days, search engines relied on a website’s keywords in the meta tag to tell the search engine what that page was about. Marketers that focused on the day-to-day tactics and not the big picture ended up stuffing those meta tags with keywords and built rankings off that. It worked… for a bit. Of course, Google got smarter and now Google completely ignores meta tag keywords for obvious reasons. Search marketers who relied on meta tag keyword stuffing freaked out and lost rankings, traffic and business. (If your SEO firm or marketers are talking to you about meta tag keywords and how your site doesn’t have them, that’s a big red flag and like someone trying to sell you a pager if you’re in the market for a new smartphone. They don’t get it.)

While that is a simple (yet outdated) example, it speaks directly to our point. Instead on hanging on every keyword and wasting time with keyword adjustments, a forward-thinking SEO strategy should be about developing an ongoing content strategy that speaks directly to well-defined target audience personas at each stage of the sales cycle and then monitoring not just traffic to that content, but how many leads came from that content and how many of those leads became customers.

Even the tracking of keyword rankings is something that will eventually be a thing of the past. For one, there is no longer one set of true rankings as search results are becoming more and more personalized based on location, social connections and other factors. We still provide ranking reports to some clients but again, it’s a poor indicator of success as rankings mean nothing. Instead, we focus on guiding our clients into developing a marketing strategy that doesn’t focus on keyword rankings and site visits, but rather a content strategy that focuses on measuring conversions into leads and leads into sales – measuring true ROI. After all, you can’t take rankings and traffic to the bank.

If you think your search marketing strategy is relying on outdated search strategies and not focusing on the big picture — we’d love to chat!


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