In a nutshell, this means that websites will no longer be able to track users by the keywords they use to power their searches. Which is a big deal. And given the huge concerns about online privacy, not surprising at all. For Google, allowing personally identifiable information to be combined with search queries is a huge liability and it’s also a competitive issue.
How This Impacts Marketers
In the simplest terms, as a marketer, it’s important for me to know what keyword terms drive traffic to our clients’ websites. That information drives our website content strategy, our lead generation strategy, our blog content strategy, even our social media content strategy.
For instance, if I’ve got a client that sells little girls’ accessories, and I know there’s a lot of search traffic for the phrase “girls red tutu” (instead of, say the phrase “red tutus for girls”) I’m going to make sure my product descriptions on the website use that phrase, my blog content uses that phrase and my social media content utilizes that phrase. That’s like using honey to draw the bees. You do the homework to find out what it is they are searching for, then make sure your marketing messages and content speak in the language customers and prospects use when they are searching.
Another example: say your company makes a software product that’s a project management tool for B2B companies. And you know that certain keyword terms drive a lot of traffic to your website, and that traffic tends to convert at a fairly high rate. Obviously, you’ve likely been using those keyword terms in your landing page campaigns, your blog content and elsewhere in order to keep driving that traffic and those leads.
This change by Google will impact your ability to easily access this keyword information and your SEO tactics will need to adapt.
Where This Leaves Us
While this makes it harder for marketers (and for small business owners) to understand the basics of what drives traffic to their sites and to leverage keyword data to help drive strategy, it’s actually not all bad. The reality is that the concept of “owning page one of Google” for a particular keyword is fairly old-school SEO thinking and the practice of only the laziest practitioners in the SEO industry.
Best in class SEO practices focus on smart content marketing. That means producing relevant content, content that serves your audience and your prospects and leveraging that content through SEO and through social media channels and driving traffic in a meaningful way.
This change forces SEO pros and marketers to focus on page quality and content rather than keyword campaigns. Which seems, to me anyway, is as it should be. You’ll still be able to create very effective SEO campaigns if you’re measuring the impact of your pages, their traffic and understand which keywords and phrases are used in that content rather than relying on keywords alone.
I like Danny Sullivan’s thoughts on this insofar as the change seems to be a lot about privacy and about personally identifiable data—and removing that from the mix. There’s been huge negative publicity about the NSA spying allegations and this could well be Google’s move to thwart any more negative publicity. And, of course, there’s much speculation that this move is all about increasing ad revenues. If you’re doing paid search, you’ll still have access to search data for your AdWords campaigns, so there’ll be an even bigger reason to pay Google for advertising.
Danny’s post on this topic from yesterday includes an update from Google on this very question, that reads as follows:
And if you want to read more on this topic, here’s a more in-depth post from earlier in the month:
And the conversation taking place on Thom Carver’s post yesterday on Search Engine Watch is also interesting, including the comments.
One final note, Google isn’t the only search engine on the planet. It’s just a pretty big one. You’ll still be able to access your search data from Bing and Yahoo and extrapolate that data to help craft your SEO strategy.
And it’s probably not a bad idea to be experimenting with some AdWords campaigns as an overall part of your integrated marketing strategy, combined with a comprehensive content strategy. And if you decide to do that, do yourself a favor and work with someone who knows what they’re doing. I’m not a fan of DIY AdWords to begin with, and now, even less so. There’s a reason to hire a pro, but only if you want results.
Bottom line, change is inevitable, especially in the world of search engines. What I like about the changes is that we’ll no doubt see the talented SEO folks rise to the challenge and develop tactics and strategies that help businesses leverage the web in order to thrive and grow. Tactics and strategies that are as good for users as they are for marketers and SEOs. And which keep users’ privacy top of mind. And the crummy, bottom-dwelling SEO people—hopefully they’ll find a new career.