Last September, Google shocked webmasters the world over with the news that the search giant would immediately begin encrypting all searches entered into the search box.
In one fell swoop, if you owned a website and saw visitors connecting to your content from organic searches on Google, your analytics no longer showed you exactly which phrases or terms were entered to get you that click.
The age of "not provided" was born. SEO mavens have been up in arms since.
First SEO, Now SEM
Late yesterday, Google's official Adwords blog broke the news - Security enhancements for search users - that how the company applies "not provided" to organic searches (SEO) now affects AdWords (SEM).
Earlier this week, news about the change leaked on Twitter. Reactions were unanimous, summed up best by John Rampton, Search Engine Journal’s Editor-At-Large:
"[Google] would essentially have to do away with Exact Match and Phrase Match. Which dominate searches.Google will cease supplying 3rd parties with paid search query data… this I could see, but honestly I don’t see why they would cut themselves at their knees and not allow you to find out data to spend more money. Advertisers would stop advertising because they couldn’t justify costs without knowing data behind them."
Useful workarounds for Google's Missing Keyword Data
The folks at iProspect explain the real impact this way: "The only piece of data advertisers will not be able to access is individual or click-level query data that is passed outside of Google to a third party, such as to an advertiser’s website analytics tool. Keywords-level tracking features will not change and other related features (such as ValueTrack parameters and the AdWords Paid & Organic report) will be unaffected."
In fact, Google's official announcement contains several useful tools for working around this missing keyword data, both for organic and paid search campaigns. According to Google:
Advertisers will continue to have access to useful data to optimize and improve their campaigns and landing pages. For example, you can access detailed information in the AdWords search terms report and the Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries report.
Best practices from Mountain View
The AdWords search terms report - previously known as the search query performance report - lets you see search queries that generated ad clicks along with key performance data.
And the Search Queries report available in Google Webmaster Tools provides aggregate information about the top 2000 queries, each day, that generated organic clicks.
If you use the query in the referer for reporting, automated keyword generation or landing page customization, then we suggest using the following alternatives:
Source: Google AdWords Blog
Security enhancements for search users