Google Analytics: Removing Search Query Data

 
 

Yesterday Google released an article on the official Google Analytics blog [1] outlining a new change to the reporting of organic traffic which was rolled out at the same time as the article. Basically, Google claims that they are now trying harder to “protect” their users by no longer reporting the organic query terms of anyone who is logged into their google.com account. This downgrade in reporting will not only apply to GA, but also all other web analytics platforms.

I am unsure as to how removing these search terms from registering within any web analytics platform will help “protect” the user as they are just that, a user. There is no name next to the query, no IP. There is nothing to identify these users presently, so I am completely lost as to how this will improve privacy.

Snippet taken from the GA blog:

How will this change impact Google Analytics users?

When a signed in user visits your site from an organic Google search, all web analytics services, including Google Analytics, will continue to recognize the visit as Google “organic” search, but will no longer report the query terms that the user searched on to reach your site. Keep in mind that the change will affect only a minority of your traffic. You will continue to see aggregate query data with no change, including visits from users who aren’t signed in and visits from Google “cpc”.

What is Google Analytics doing about it?

We are still measuring all SEO traffic. You will still be able to see your conversion rates, segmentations, and more.

To help you better identify the signed in user organic search visits, we created the token “(not provided)” within Organic Search Traffic Keyword reporting. You will continue to see referrals without any change; only the queries for signed in user visits will be affected. Note that “cpc” paid search data is not affected.

What does this mean?

At present there are somewhere between 300-500 million active Google accounts at this current point in time. This coupled with the multitude of people flocking to G+, Gmail and many other Google products means that the number of people being signed in will not be a “minority” as the Analytics team states in their article, but rather the majority. Ultimately, this translates into lots and lots of organic searches with no term to tag them to.  This makes it extremely hard to report to clients from an SEO agency perspective as there is now no way to measure SEO activities through web analytics platforms. Where do we go from here? Will we have to rely on web logs?

From the deepest regions of our hearts,  thanks Google!

References:

[1] Making search more secure: Accessing search query data in Google Analytics. Retrieved from: http://analytics.blogspot.com/2011/10/making-search-more-secure-accessing.html on 19/10/2011

Dan Petrovic is a well-known Australian SEO and a managing director of Dejan SEO. He has published numerous research articles in the field of search engine optimisation and online marketing. Dan's work is highly regarded by the world-wide SEO community and featured on some of the most reputable websites in the industry.

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