Why Google Killed Search Referral Data(and what it means for you)

The SEO community is currently up in arms because Google recently announced that it would no longer share referral data from logged-in users. That means website owners can no longer find out what keywords visitors logged into their Google accounts are using to reach their sites. In the past, webmasters could see it in their analytics programs if visitors typed in phrases like, “black dress” or “Los Angeles plumber,” to reach their sites. Now, all they can see is “(not provided).”

This is a huge blow for SEO professionals and webmasters because it makes it all the more difficult for them to determine what keywords to focus on in their SEO campaigns. How are we to know which keywords have the highest ROI and whether we’re maximizing the effectiveness of our SEO campaigns if we don’t have access to information about user intent?

Google’s So-Called Privacy Concerns

Google claims that it made SSL Search the default encryption protocol because it wants to protect the privacy of its users. However, Google is still providing query data for paid search listings. So, basically, Google is only giving referral data to advertisers. Some folks in the SEO community take this to mean that Google doesn’t actually care about their users’ privacy and just wants to force more companies to use AdWords.

Another reason why Google’s recent move has upset SEO pros and webmasters is that many of them rely on search intent data to customize their sites’ content. If Google wants webmasters to improve the user experience that their websites offer, they need to continue providing them with search referral data for logged-in users. Many marketers rely on search intent data to customize their sites’ content.

If Google truly cared about user privacy, it wouldn’t offer query data to advertisers, either! But hiding query data from advertisers would clearly be bad for business because it would make it impossible for advertisers to measure the ROI of their PPC campaigns.

What Comes Next?

There’s no denying that losing referral data is a huge setback, but it doesn’t mean that your SEO campaign will crumble. There are a few things you should do. First of all, track the quantity and percentage of lost keyword data. Google has said that they expect the percentage of lost keyword data to be less than 10% for most websites. It’s important to keep track of that information, so you can determine whether the figure increases or decreases over time.

Meanwhile, you can continue relying on the keyword data provided by Bing and Yahoo, which probably account for around 10-20% of your organic search referrals. You can also access existing Google data from users not logged into their Google accounts and users clicking on your paid search ads, if you’re an AdWords customer. Although it’s not complete, such data will prove invaluable when you’re deciding which keywords to target and figuring out how to optimize your site’s conversion rates.

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