Perhaps you know this already, or maybe you're not the one in charge of keeping track of referrals to your site, but I'm going to say it anyway. A larger amount of B2B sites are seeing "not provided" in Google (News - Alert) search referral data as the search term that was used.
This term usually appears in parentheses, according to Optify, a digital marketing company that performed a study analyzing a new setting introduced by Google recently. The study concludes that nearly 40 percent of the traffic appearing on business-to-business (B2B) sites are showing up with "not provided" as the search term. The company attributes this to a new feature that Google introduced which encrypts the search transaction with SSL for people who are signed in with a Google account. This is an opt-out feature that's on by default. A number of publications have already speculated this as a prelude to Google charging money to reveal what's behind the "not provided" term. The truth is that it's not very possible to reveal a search term for a private search, if Google deems it necessary.
It might be a possibility that Google wants to start making money off of the firms that desperately want to lift the veil on the dreadful "not provided" search term, but it is also possible that Google just doesn't want to violate the privacy of users that opt into something. Or, it could be that Google just wants people to stop trying to game its system.
For a long time, Google's been trying to fight with people who simply spew out content loaded with certain keywords to get ahead of others. It's a nasty, albeit effective, way to get attention to yourself. Of course, that all changed when Google came up with its Panda update, but keywords are still mildly relevant to the proper practice of search engine optimization (SEO). I think that Google is trying to give us a message: Just create good stuff and the rest will come.
Optify's (News - Alert) study analyzed 424 B2B websites' data and sucked out the amount of "not provided" queries in a given batch of visitor data. The results show that almost 40 percent of the data received was "not provided" and 81 percent of the websites analyzed had at least a 30-percent ghost referral rate returning "not provided."
Rob Eleveld, CEO of Optify, said, in a statement "Referral data from organic search is quickly disappearing, and we believe that soon the majority of referring keywords will be listed as 'not provided.' This is yet another example of how the SEO practice is at the mercy of the search engines, and we believe it's time for B2B marketers to focus on the data they have for creating a personalized experience for their visitors and leads. If you are a digital marketing agency providing only SEO services, it's time to start diversifying."
Indeed, it's time to start looking at other venues and other ways of keeping Google happy. Gaming the system is really making the search kraken angry, apparently!
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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli