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Google Analytics Privacy Policy Limits Keyword Data

There has been an announcement on the Google Analytics blog that has most SEO companies up in arms. Rightly so, as it seems that Google has decided to make a contradictory move. In summary Google has announced that they will no longer show Google Analytics keywords data from logged in Google users. In other words, if you are logged in to your Google account and visit a website through the Google search engine, the site owner will not see the keyword query you used to get to his site. Google claims this is an update to their privacy policy but this is also rightly disputed which I will explain a little later.

Why do we need this keyword data?

SEO professionals and webmasters use the keyword data to analyse visitor patterns and see which keywords perform well and which keywords need a little help. Keyword data is also very important in measuring website conversions/goals. Without knowing what keywords were used to get to your site it is almost impossible to figure out which keywords lead to sales/contact/conversion. Conversions are essential to any SEO marketing strategy.

Why did Google do this?

As a monopoly, Google gets to do what it wants. Are they seeing the bigger picture? Have they been in trouble with privacy issues? Who knows? They claim that this is an update to their privacy policy but as Chris from iMod  points out, this is very contradicting considering that this change will not affect Google Adwords users. If Adwords users are not affected then surely Google does not actually care about privacy or they would have put a halt on Adwords keywords data too.

So What Now?

For now we need to sit tight and see how this plays out, we need to find out if this will affect third party tracking programs. If it does not then my guess is that Google Analytics will be abandoned for more accurate products (Google Analytics has been the most accurate product for years).

How with this affect South African SEO companies and webmasters?

It will all boil down to how many users in South Africa actually sign in to Google before searching, remember, Google is going to limit the keyword data to users that are logged in, so non logged in Google users will still transfer data as normal. If South Africa has a high percentage of non logged in users (which I am sure we do) then we may be able to get enough data to estimate conversion ratio.




  1. Anonymous Oct 20, 2011 Reply

    What amazes me most is that very few of the big SEO companies overseas have blogged or mentioned this, I’d have expected a great deal more action. Perhaps SEOmoz, BlueGlass, Seer and KISSmetrics are still deciding what they think about it. Knowing that SEObook and Joost VD blogged it makes it even stranger..

    • Bryan Casson Oct 20, 2011 Reply

      I have noticed in the past that Joost and the guys at SEObook are very vocal and do not care what Google thinks. As for SEOmoz and the other guys they are most likely looking for a safe way to talk about it so will most likely only talk about it later

      • Anonymous Oct 20, 2011 Reply

        Agreed. However, this doesn’t have to be a slate or anything, it could just be news. But as you said, they’re probably trying to think of a way to work around it so when they announce it, they have a “solution” to go along with it. They’ve had one post today, so hopefully we’ll see another soon 🙂

  2. Robert Bravery Oct 20, 2011 Reply

    Bryan, This is very interesting. But at the same time makes no sense whatsoever.
    With so many people logged in to their google account, for email, Google+, etc, the data is going to be very skewed.

    Then there is the ability to reconcile your adwords data with actual site traffic. If adwords is not affected but site traffic is, then if I get 10 users to my site via adwords (which is as a result of some keyword search) but those same keywords cannot be measured via normal search, or normal referral traffic, then how do I reconcile this.

    Smack of something other than privacy issues.

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