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Has (not provided) become a major barrier to effective SEO?

The restriction of keyword referral data has had a major impact on SEO, with marketers seeing it as the second biggest obstacle to search success. 

An inability to see this data has prevented marketers from optimising their organic search campaigns as they had done in the past. 

Our UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report 2014, produced in association with Latitude, has surveyed companies and agencies about their attitudes to the almost total loss of organic keyword data. 

How are marketers coping with (not provided)?

69% of marketers claim that they focus on conversion rates and performance metrics when coping with their loss of Google keyword data.

This comes from the 2014 Industry Survey published by Moz.

By moving towards making all searches secure, Google has taken away most of the organic search-term data from its Analytics tool, thereby leaving the rather cryptic ‘(not provided)’ as the top keyword in the search terms driving traffic to your site.

What were the most significant developments for SEO in 2013?

It’s been another eventful year in search, mainly thanks to Google, and the role of the SEO has changed, even in this short time. 

We’ve had Penguin 2.0, the under the radar Hummingbird update, as well as the removal of the last remaining keyword referral data. 

I’ve been asking folks in the industry about their thoughts on SEO in 2013, and the most significant events over the past 12 months….

Has the impact of encrypted search been consistent by sector?

At the end of September, Google confirmed the roll-out of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encrypted search to all users.

In short, this means that keyword-level data for organic (non-paid) Google traffic will no longer be provided. Consequently, website owners will no longer be able to view the keywords a visitor used in Google to find their website.

This announcement from Google will have a huge impact on the industry, with search marketers around the world rethinking metrics to track SEO performance.

Eight alternatives and workarounds for missing (not provided) data

With Google’s recent changes removing most of the remaining organic keyword data, I thought I’d round up some of the workarounds and alternatives for measuring organic traffic. 

Of course, nothing can really substitute for the real data and, as pointed out here, it may force SEOs to analyse a greater breadth of data, and to look at things like organic performance per page, not just per keyword. 

Until then, here are some tips and alternatives to organic keyword data…

Time to say a last goodbye to organic keyword data?

There are lots of reports around the web right now that Google is redirecting all traffic to the HTTPs (secure) version of its site. 

Search Engine Land explains that this may be an attempt to block NSA spying, or perhaps to increase ad sales. Who knows?

What does seem certain is that the amount of organic traffic which is encrypted has leapt up over the past month, and more so over the last day or so. 

How to measure branded search traffic in the ‘Not Provided’ age

Many SEOs spend a lot of time trying to improve rankings for non-branded search terms, for all sorts of reasons. We do this too, but I’ve always kept a very close eye on branded search volume.

When we launched this blog in 2006 one of our primary aims was to improve our overall share of search. Another was to move the key brand metrics in a favourable way, not least because a visitor who adds ‘Econsultancy’ to a search term is 8-12 times more valuable than somebody who doesn’t include our brand in their query.

As such, branded search traffic is very important to us, but the horror show that is ‘Not Provided’ means that it is increasingly hard to track it. In fact, you will be appalled if you only look at your analytics data.

With this in mind, I thought I’d show you our numbers, and provide a workaround for you to try.

The rise of (not provided). Is Google making it impossible to measure natural search ?

It’s reasonable that the average organic search engine marketer is feeling fairly embattled in recent times.  

Not only are they under assault from the increasingly rapid pace of change within its algorithm, but it seems that Google is also making it ever more difficult to measure the real effect of SEO related changes.

The most obvious issue is the rise of the (not provided) keyphrase referrer in analytics. This was launched in a blaze of publicity in late 2011 for users signed into Google services, but the amount of traffic referred by (not provided) has been stealthily increasing ever since.  

Google now encrypts UK search referral data

Google’s SSL encryption of search data has now moved onto UK and other international sites, meaning valuable referral data will now be unavailable to website owners. 

Dan Barker spotted this today, and has already seen a big rise in the amount of (not provided) search data on a clients’ site. 

As a site which attracts US and UK traffic, we’ve seen this affect US visits, with up to 33% of referral data encrypted on certain posts. 

I’ve been seeing how this has impacted our UK traffic…