SEO Under Attack – The Google Analytics Keyword Data Apocalypse


Google announced today they’re going to take a step toward user privacy by hiding keywords used by searchers signed into their Google accounts.  We’ll leave the discussion regarding their real reason for doing so for another day or someone else to blog about. Me, I’m going to talk about what I think this means for the industry and why I think so many people that are freaking out over this change are missing the bigger opportunity here.

Okay so – people are crying foul on this change to Google Analytics.  They’re saying they need keyword data in GA, because they tie those keywords to conversions – the more conversions that come from a specific keyword, the more important that phrase is.

If that keyword is getting conversions, but it’s ranked on the 2nd page of Google, the thinking is – hey – do more SEO for this phrase, get it higher in the SERP, and in turn, naturally, we should see exponential increase in conversions.

That may or may not be true.

First of all, on any given day, there could be a thousand reasons someone comes to your site after seeing a specific result in the SERPs.  Maybe that specific phrase is the golden egg, and maybe it’s not.  Maybe it only appears to be. Maybe there’s a better phrase you aren’t even considering, that could get even better results.  Maybe there isn’t.  It’s a real possibility though, and you may not even be aware that it is due to being fixated on what’s there in front of you.

And Google isn’t eliminating ALL keyword data.  Only a sub-set.  Okay – so if you have a particular site where you know for a fact that the majority of visits come from people signed in to Google, maybe in that particular scenario, you may truly be negatively impacted even from the loss of ability to look at general keyword trends.  But how many of you know that’s your particular situation?

The Bigger Problem In Our Industry

What I have found over the years I’ve performed audits on sites that others have implemented SEO for is that every single site, without exception, has had massive or at the very least, significant problems in its SEO, regardless of keyword choices, that shows me, over and over again, that most in our industry get hung up on granular issues and miss the bigger opportunities.

If a site has one or more critical big-picture SEO issues, all the granular analysis in the world is nothing more than a distraction to me.

SO what if I can move the conversion needle 5%, 15% or even 20% over time, if in reality, when proper forensic SEO is performed and the resulting changes cause a site to see 20%, 40% or even 60% increases in that same timeframe?

That’s the issue to me, in a nutshell.  If a site has structural flaws, and if you fix those structural flaws, not only will you automatically get higher rankings for whatever phrases you optimize for, you’ll get higher conversions.  You’ll get an exponential growth in the long tail without having to focus on the long tail.  You’ll get more visits and more conversions from other non-Google sources as well.

And honestly, either I can analyze keyword relevance without seeing it in GA, and tying it to specific conversions, or I can’t. If I can’t then maybe its’ because I’m not looking at other ways to get that data.

No, to me, once again, this latest apocalyptic cry is no different than any other previous panic attack due to people being hung up on shiny objects, magic bullets, and myopic SEO.  As painful as it may be to hear me say it, my best recommendation is to pause and consider whether you’ve been missing more important issues in your work than you realized.  And because most site owners don’t have an unlimited budget, it’s just my opinion (controversial as it may be), that people in this industry need to wake up and recognize that if they truly want to maximize their client’s or employers SEO money, they need to stop and learn that they have bigger fish to fry that they weren’t even aware of.

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