Updated 10/14/13: Google has since removed the (not provided) section from Analytics altogether.
You may have noticed the “(not provided)” section has been gradually increasing for your website in Google Analytics and you can thank Google for that mysterious section. This “(not provided)” protects the privacy of users by adding an SSL encryption to search terms, which began in 2011 with users who were signed into Google. It has since continually expanded its reach of coverage to the most recent Hummingbird update and finished off by having internet marketers in a panic after the switch from AdWords Keyword Tool to Keyword Planner. This change threw many people off but with some insight into “(not provided)” and Hummingbird, this seemingly unruly decision by Google makes a little more sense.
The focus of the Hummingbird update is to encourage businesses to provide content on their sites that are more of a question/answer theme. Google is much better at understanding concepts, complex questions and relationships between concepts. The original goal of Google was always to provide results (answers) to search terms (questions) people look for. This doesn’t mean to literally have a Q/A on every page.
By providing more quality content that answers user questions, a website in turn has many more entrance paths for people to come to their page, including new and unique visitors. You can check out how significant the “(not provided)” stat has become by logging into your Google Analytics account, click on Reporting, go down to Acquisitions on the left-side navigation, choose Keywords, then Organic. As you’ll see, Google really wants us to quit focusing on keyword rankings.
Why the Constant Changes, Google?
It seems that (almost) everything Google does is to improve the overall experience to its users. The increase of “(not provided)” and Hummingbird work together to encourage marketers to stop focusing on just increasing rankings and refocus on providing a better experience for visitors of websites. When the focus is on the end-user, you realize you need to look ahead at why the user would want to come to your site, which should be because there is really good, engaging, and relevant content that answers questions they may have.
Businesses who focus on quality onsite content understand that having interesting topics and answers is what gets people to their site and coming back for more. This encourages businesses to turn their attention to branded long-tail keywords. Before the internet, people perceived legitimacy and trust with brands. Google is bringing us back to the basics to focus on branded keywords. Focusing on keyword traffic and rankings was a distraction to the primary reason for search engines in the first place.
The Future of SEO
For SEO companies and businesses that always understood that everything should be about providing a better experience for the customer, this doesn’t change much. It does show as a very healthy reminder to others that just trying to rank #1 shouldn’t be the primary focus of SEO. Google has always stated that content is king and this merely reinforces that content is king…on your website. Link-building through off-site blogging is still a large factor in the trust of your website but it has become much more difficult in the last couple months.
In terms of AdWords where the new Keyword Planner resides, many marketers have noticed and are suspicious of the quantity of traffic that now shows for many keywords. It is thought that the significant decrease in traffic for certain keywords is a result of Google combining computer search traffic with mobile and tablets. However, it just doesn’t make any sense why search volume would drop instead of increase.
Some people speculate that this is all just Google’s way of getting marketers to use AdWords more since PPC is their main source of revenue. Whatever the motive may be, we need to look at the big picture of what purpose Google serves to their users and since Google dominates the search engine world, we just need to roll with the punches.
Customer Paradigm’s Strategy
We focus on quality onsite content in addition to off-site so the core values don’t change much for us. However, we are happy to continue focusing on creating quality, relevant, and interesting content on our client’s sites with long-tailed keywords. In addition, we’re excited to continue being creative for our clients and their customers through designing infographics, shooting videos, managing social media, and overall, focusing on strengthening their brands. For us, these new updates are just about getting back to basics.
If you would like some help with your internet marketing SEO strategy in regards to the Hummingbird and “(not provided)” changes, contact us to find out how we can help.