You have likely heard the buzz in the last week that Google has switched over to all secure encrypted searches using HTTPS. In English, this means traffic from Google will now show in your analytics as keyword = (not provided). Website metrics such as traffic, revenue, conversion rate and engagement will no longer be available at the keyword level. These metrics will be available about organic Google traffic overall, but no longer by keyword.
Here are five things we believe resort marketers need to keep in mind as they listen to the uproar surrounding this development:
1) The Sky is Not Falling. While some are positioning it as a “sudden” change, this move by Google was neither abrupt nor unexpected. Google began encrypting search keywords two years ago and, as a company who frequently cites its commitment to user privacy, the writing was on the wall that this day was coming. We have all watched the (not provided) keywords in our analytics increase 200% - 300% over last year. As you can see from the chart below - based on Google Analytics data from a dozen resorts – this transition to 100% encryption actually began in late July had has been steadily rolled out since.
2) Your Site’s Keywords Are Still in Google Webmaster Tools. All is not lost. Your website’s top search terms are still available via Google Webmaster Tools. If you haven’t already, make sure to verify your site in Google Webmaster Tools and associate this data with your Google Analytics account. The limitations to Webmaster data are that you can only see the top 2,000 keywords per day and only go back for 90 days. For the time being, if you want historic data for next year or six months from now, you are going to have to save out and store the data. Industry rumor has it that this time limit will be expanded to a full year in the (hopefully) near future.
3) Keyword Data Is Still in Google AdWords Keyword Planner. Having detailed, reliable data on what people are searching is critical for the operation of Google AdWords, so we can be confident that AdWords will remain a great resource for keyword insight. By analyzing your paid search campaign you can see which of your keywords are most popular in terms of search volume. In addition, click through rates and conversion data will point to which terms are most likely to drive traffic and most valuable for your business. The Keyword Planner Tool will still allow you to research the search volume and competitiveness of any search term you can think of.
4) Don’t Write Off Yahoo and Bing. While they still represent a small percentage of the market, this change shouldn’t affect Yahoo/Bing keyword level traffic. For the time being, you will still be able to get some insight on user behavior here. The latest numbers from comScore show that Google has 67% market share, Yahoo has 11.3% and Bing has 17.9%.
5) Focus on Content, Not Keywords. This change is a great opportunity for SEOs, and all marketers, to take a step back from being keyword-centric and really look at their efforts from a page-level content strategy. There is still more than enough data available to determine if “white water rafting” is more interesting to your customers than “segway tours.” Rather than looking at performance by keyword, we can focus on page performance – how much interest did a piece of content generate? Was it liked, shared, pinned, linked? Did visitors engage the rest of your site and did those visitors ultimately convert? Looking forward, these will be the metrics that matter for marketers.