Has web-traffic analysis just got better or worse thanks to Google search encryption?

Last month, WordPress informed its customers that Google has expanded search encryption to cover any search except for clicks on ads. The impact will mean less detail about which keyword searches are driving traffic to your website. Debate among industry observers suggested that this was done either in response to security-related issues, or simply to maximise ad revenue.

I’ll leave you to decide what the real motive is, and to determine what your own response should be around SEO strategies. My sense is that content owners and social marketers will sharpen their use of keywords, and devise new tactics to maximise the value of web traffic analytics. As one commentator has observed, Google has a near monopoly on search – but in the end, it’s their platform and they’ll do what they want with it.

From my own analysis here at Content in Context, the number of “unknown search terms” far outweighs precise keyword or search strings, but thanks to the WordPress stats, I am still able to get a reasonably informed sense of what drives traffic to this blog:

  • Social networks (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) account for about half of all referrals to Content in Context (including 10% from Reddit, even though I do not actively participate on that platform)
  • Search engines comprise about one-third of referrals (with Google Search accounting for over 90%)
  • Meetup is an increasingly important source of referrals
  • Embedded links (used selectively) can also be a useful source of referrals

I have found some interesting citations to my blog (including undergraduate study forums), and I figure I must be doing something right when third parties approach me to write about their products or to include advertorial content in my blog – and of course, I would declare any such interest when it arises!

Even though I do not pay for Google ad words, or undertake any paid-for SEO, this blog comes up 2nd (after paid results) when using Google search for “Content in Context”.

One outcome from Google search encryption will undoubtedly be a renewed focus on providers offering contextual search solutions, because keyword search relies primarily on frequency, proximity and assumed relevance of search terms, rather than actual contextual meaning.

So, in some ways Google’s decision to encrypt all search will make everyone else lift their game, which can only be positive.

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