SEO: My take on Google’s (not provided) keyword data

Let me start with something that isn’t stated enough. SEOs and search engines both want to make the web a better place. SEOs want their websites to be found and play by the search engines’ rules to achieve that, well most of them do. To do this they need data from the search engines: what are people searching for? etc. In return the search engines can return better results, meeting their primary objective of providing the information that users want.

So what happens when someone breaks this unwritten agreement. Well, if the SEOs break it, they are (mostly) punished. Google has implemented its Penguin algorithm to weed out poor quality sites that don’t play by the rules. It’s getting harder and harder for optimisers to employ black-hat techniques, which is a great thing for the web, and most SEOs would thank Google for that, even if they have had to adapt the way they work. So what happens when Google pulls the rug from under the feet of the SEOs? Well that remains to be seen.

It seems as though, at some point, keyword (not provided) could make up to 100% of organic referrals in site analytics. That is, Google not providing organic search terms and keywords. Search optimisers use this data to refine and improve websites, making it easier for users and search engines to find their content. (Whatever people might think, it’s not used for evil!) The algorithms work in a way so that, generally, the cream rises to the top. So how do webmasters improve their sites and target their content to what users need and want if they have nothing to go on? Well there are a number of ways, most highlighted in a recent Moz Whiteboard Friday video (albeit on a Tuesday). I won’t go into these now, but I will note one thing: Google AdWords crops up a lot as an alternative method of getting this data. Yep, that’s paying Google to advertise your site on keywords that you would hope would drive you organic traffic anyway.

Google started with the intention of making the web a better place, however, their motto “don’t do evil” has been questioned in recent times. The line between “evil” and “good business strategy” is blurred and often entirely subjective; either way it is still up for debate. I’m not going to comment on whether Google is abusing its monopolistic position in this market, nor will I question whether this can be challenged legally – I just don’t have that knowledge. What I will say is that I think providing keyword data to webmasters, SEOs and even website users, is an essential factor in making the internet a better place and for meeting user’s needs – two things which Google did (and probably still does) as its core values. Values which, given this recent development, seem to be getting lost.

As an aside, happy birthday to Google – 15 years old (Google: google in 1998)! Let’s see what the Hummingbird algorithm has in store.

Tim Hodge
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Tim Hodge

Tim Hodge lives and works in Sydney. He specialises in web content including SEO and social media. He also writes about craft beer, art, culture and football.

Feel free to contact him on Twitter @timothyhodge, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Tim Hodge
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About Tim Hodge

I'm Tim, a human being living in Sydney, Australia. I spend a lot of time despairing over Leeds United and the rest of it writing, making/looking at art, reading, watching films and dabbling in SEO, social media and content marketing.
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