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Updates from Google are frequent and generally make it easier for reliable businesses to promote themselves online. However, recent changes to Google Analytics potentially make it more difficult for webmasters to track the success of their search engine marketing efforts. What can be done to work around this?
In the past, website owners and marketing managers have benefitted from being able to get exact figures on how much traffic a specific keyword is generating for the website (from organic clicks). Website owners could analyse the value of particular search phrases to determine how often it is bringing people to their page and what they do when they get there. The information could be used to improve click through rates, adjust the website to accommodate for the keywords that are bringing about the most interest and tweak keyword selections according to their value to a particular site.
However, Google has made recent changes to hide this data from Analytics, which makes it much more difficult – but far from impossible – to assess the real value of specific keywords in traffic terms. Some have interpreted this as a move by Google to encourage more people to invest in Adwords – where information about paid keywords is not hidden. Google claims that the change has been implemented as a means of ‘protecting’ users’ privacy, though the fact that they supply the same information to paying customers (or, more precisely, the Adwords equivalent) suggests otherwise. Apparently Google users’ privacy is only worth protecting if they are clicking on organic search results.
What does this mean for Search Engine Optimisation efforts? Well, ultimately we now have less information to work with, which can never be a good thing. But the change isn’t necessarily completely negative. This keyword-specific data can be estimated and worked around; it simply requires a bit more work and general SEO-savvy. However, what is most significant about this change is that it signifies somewhat of a swing in SEO practice. We are now encouraged to focus less on ranking for certain keywords, and rather to implement a marketing plan that is more traffic and ultimately enquiry/sale focused, which is and always has been the ultimate goal.
Over the past little while, Google’s algorithm changes have been discouraging marketers to rely too much on link building and content that focuses solely on becoming ranked for a specific search term. This change in analytics is one aspect of a greater paradigm shift that has seen Google push website managers to broaden and diversify their online marketing strategies. Rather than engaging in activities for the sole purpose of getting ranked for specific keywords, we need to be looking at ranks as one part of a bigger marketing picture that places similar emphasis on social media and general branding.