So, last week, the SEO industry was abuzz with Google’s October 18 announcement that it would no longer report visitors’ search queries in any of its tools IF the visitors doing the search were logged into Google.
Say what? Let me show you.
BEFORE THIS CHANGE (this is an actual example from my own content):
- A user searches the web for “where can I find a pet sea hare?” and lands on my page.
- Google records the “where can I find a pet sea hare” query in its tools and sends it to Squidoo stats
- I see in my Squidoo stats “where can I find a pet sea hare?” brought a visitor
- Amused, I do the research and find some C. aplysia suppliers and add them to my sea hare fanpage in hopes that info will be useful (or at least entertaining) to future visitors.
- A user searches for “where can I find a pet sea hare?” and lands on my page.
- Google’s webtools record the search as (“not provided”)
- Squidoo doesn’t report the search query in its traffic stats. (In fact, it may not even know that’s a visit… I can’t tell, but my visits have suddenly dropped on my Squidoo dashboard stats without a corresponding drop in Google Analytics).
- I don’t know what my readers are interested in, want to know, or need me to clarify.
Again, Google claims this is to protect users’ privacy. However:
- Search queries don’t tell me who is doing the searching. They’re like words shouted from the back of the room, except you can’t hear the voices. So this doesn’t protect privacy.
- The only search queries Google is concealing are those from logged-in Google members. It’s a protection racket: “Join Google, and we won’t spy on you!”
- EXCEPT that Google still shares all the search query data with its paying advertisers, which is why the SEO industry is rife with articles like Google Puts a Price on Privacy and Google Invests in Privacy For Profit .
- And speaking of privacy, Google is NOT concealling referrer data — where the visitor comes from — which is more private than search queries.
Some parts of the internet are gloating about this, because they consider all SEO to be dirty tricks, and they have swallowed Google’s white lie that this change will help protect users’ privacy. But I was using that data to improve my content for my readers. And see Matt Cutts’ video from this week:
Matt Cutts: “Does Google Consider SEO to be Spam?”
Well, at least that’s a little reassuring.
I am also concerned about how Squidoo is handling this change. If Google isn’t reporting a significant number of search queries to Squidoo’s traffic stats, does Squidoo still count them as visits? This impacts Lensrank. Yes, Google claims the cloaked data represent only a fraction of visits, but on the other hand, it’s everyone logged into Google from, say, Gmail, YouTube, Picasa, Reader, Google Plus, or a ton of other Google services. My third-most-common search query is now cloaked, and you can bet a bucketload of long-tail queries are (Analytics only gives me my top 500 queries, and one of my top lenses used to get more than 500 unique queries a week).
This change will also impact Hubpages and other sites that rely on Google’s API to report keywords that brought visitors to your site.