This morning, my buddy Ryan Jones tipped me off to the thing that SEO professionals have been dreading their entire lives.
Google keeps defaulting me to HTTPS on all browsers today. Goodbye keywords?
— Ryan Jones (@RyanJones) September 23, 2013
Which basically means
That moment when all the Google "conspiracy theorists" are proven right.
— Rhea Drysdale (@Rhea) September 23, 2013
Wait, what’s happening?
Since 2011, if you were logged into your Google Account and accessed Google.com, you were redirected to https://www.google.com, the secure version of their site. That means Google isn’t passing any of your data, like your keyword referral data, to Google Analytics. Up to this point, only people who were logged out of their Google account would pass keyword data and everything else was blocked behind (not provided).
Now, it seems that Google is redirecting EVERYONE, regardless if you are logged into your Google Account, to the HTTPs secure version of their site, meaning they’re encrypting all of their search activity — except for ad clicks, as Search Engine Land reports.
Basically, (not provided) could now be at 100%, and you will no longer be able to see which keywords people use to come to your site unless you’re paying for an ad.
We’ve spot-checked a handful of our clients and can confirm we’re seeing anywhere from a 10% to 50% increase in (not provided) from yesterday to today. NotProvidedCount.com, which tracks 60 sites’ (not provided) percentages, is also showing a massive increase.
Well, now what?
Step back from that ledge, my friend. It’s OK. We’ve all known this day was coming, whether you want to believe it not. And we’ve been preparing for what else we’ll be measuring when that day, today, actually happens.
You will no longer be able to report on individual keyword data. And that’s a good thing. Rankings and keyword data don’t tell me anything. Now, you’ll need to look at better KPIs that actually show how well your website is performing.
OK, What should I track?
While traffic is important, it’s not the end-all, be-all of website data. Unless you make money from ad revenue on your site, traffic isn’t paying the bills. Look to see how many people are converting from visitors to leads on your site. Furthermore, break this down by traffic type to better diagnose and categorize your efforts.
Even if you can’t get specific keywords, you can still see your traffic sources. Break things down by source/medium (Google, organic, referral, direct, etc) and see what’s changed. Keep track of campaigns you’re running so you can better correlate what affected the change.
Internally, we haven’t tracked individual keyword metrics for about 9 months now, but we have segmented branded vs non branded search traffic. Sadly, that will be lost with Google redirecting everyone to HTTPs.
Page Level Metrics
Landing pages have become more important than ever. Instead of looking at just traffic and keyword going to that landing page, look at how the page is performing as whole. Pay attention to entrances vs. exits, bounce rate, time on page.
Google Webmaster Tools
There’ll also be a much heavier reliance on Google Webmaster Tools’ Search Queries which will still show you the queries that are bringing traffic to your site, the number of impression/clicks it generated and your average position. To me, this has always provided more insight than the keyword section in Google Analytics.
What do you think of Google forcing encrypted search by redirecting everyone to HTTPs? What other metrics are you going to want to see?