Keyword Not Provided Explained for Small Business

Keyword ‘Not Provided’ Explained for Small Business

Google has a fondness for keeping webmasters on their toes. You don’t have to be a search engine marketing expert to be aware of major upheavals with names like Panda and Penguin. Such algorithm updates have transformed the search engine landscape on several memorable occasions, and that’s not going to stop.

keyword not provided

Google recently announced that they’re using a completely new alogrithm, but there is something else even more important that is sure to affect the way you market your small business website. It’s being referred to as the keyword (not provided) update in some circles, but what it really means is that all Google keyword data will be encrypted going forward.

What is Keyword Data Encryption?

You can’t hope to understand the latest Google changes without knowing a little about the history of how privacy matters have been handled by the search engine in the past. For a long time, Google search queries weren’t secure at all. When a user performed a search and clicked on a website, the webmaster could easily find out which keywords the searcher used to arrive there. The data was readily available because it was not encrypted.

In 2011, Google’s first secured search feature made its debut. Anyone who was currently logged into a Google account was automatically protected by this feature. When a search was made by a user who was logged into their Google account, keyword data was no longer sent to the sites that they ultimately visited. The searches were encrypted, so users were briefly – and imperceptibly – redirected before landing on their desired pages. In turn, the webmasters of those pages could not access the keywords that were used.

This change affected web marketers’ ability to pull useful keyword data, but it didn’t have a very major impact. After all, it only affected searches made by people who were logged into their Google accounts. Not long after that, Google expanded this feature to searches that were made directly from browsers’ search bars. This further reduced the amount of useful keyword data that was available to webmasters and marketers.

Why Keyword Data Encryption Matters

Although most people who stay current on such matters aren’t very surprised about it, Google is expanding secured search to all queries that are made on the popular search engine. Even if a person isn’t logged into his Google account at all, the keywords they used to arrive at a website won’t be made available.

The primary effect of this change is that it reduces the amount of viable information that people will have about which keywords convert, which bring the highest ROI and which keywords have the biggest impact in general. Such information is highly useful to anyone who wants to engage in effective search engine optimisation, or SEO. It will no longer be easy to determine which keywords should be used to optimise a website. Webmasters will no longer be able to quickly see whether updates to a site’s content are positively or negatively impacted by changes in keyword optimisation.

All is Not Lost

As dire as this news may sound, you shouldn’t give up hope just yet. In fact, there are many positive aspects to this change. For one thing, Google will continue to provide keyword data for AdWords. This fact certainly suggests that Google is attempting to force more people into using the pay-per-click service, but it’s probably not the only reason for the change. After all, many people are concerned about online privacy these days. Encrypted searches block users’ search histories and shield them from prying eyes.

Upon logging in to check keyword data following this change, you’ll discover that most of the information falls into the “keyword (not provided)” category. How will you be able to optimise your content correctly now? This is yet another example of why high-quality content is so much more important than highly optimised content. Website owners have been told this ever since Panda and Penguin upended the search engine landscape, and it’s truer than ever.

Content Themes rather than Keywords

Instead of pouring all of your efforts into a handful of keywords, start developing content themes. As always, make sure they are relevant to the overall theme of your website. Most importantly, use content that’s engaging, unique, compelling, informative and fun to read. There simply aren’t any shortcuts out there anymore. Now more than ever, your content needs to shine in every way. Don’t bemoan the loss of in-depth keyword data. Use it to shift your focus to giving your visitors the most valuable experiences possible, and good things will develop from there.


Photo credit: Mait Jüriado via photopin cc


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Nick Rink

Managing Director at Smart Local
Nick runs Smart Local from its base in Wimbledon and writes about local search, social media, the mobile web and other online marketing issues affecting small businesses.