*Update – this post was written several years ago but continues to get traffic because people are still taking an approach that is entirely too focused on keyword rankings and not focused on driving traffic, leads and sales. This post has been updated to address some updates since it was originally written.
It’s been awhile now that Google announced that 100% of organic search traffic will now be encrypted, so you will not get the keyword information in Google Analytics that many are used to seeing. You may have noticed, starting back in 2011, that your number one keyword was (not provided) in Google Analytics, and over the last couple of years the % of traffic from (not provided) has grown.
Look familiar? Originally, search phrases were only encrypted when a user was logged into a Google service such as Gmail. But over the last couple of years browsers such as Firefox, Safari, and Chrome have made all searches from their browsers encrypted.
Why would Google do this?
Despite rumors that it’s an attempt to push more people to use Google Ads as keyword information is still available there the reality is that it’s a security issues as Google has been pushing toward this SSL driven encrypted approach.
After visiting Google, we know firsthand that everything they do is focused on the end user first and that is the searcher. Google makes their money from Google Ads yet even with paid search the searcher, not the advertiser, is their #1 priority. This makes sense and they hammer it home with every employee and decision they make. They believe if they have the searchers everything else will follow – and it’s true. It’s the #1 item on their company philosophy (which is worth a read).
“We’re going to continue expanding our use of SSL in our services because we believe it’s a good thing for users….The motivation here is not to drive the ads side — it’s for our search users.”
Official statement from Google via Search Engine Land
What does this mean for your SEO marketing strategy?
While many SEO “experts” are freaking out and think the sky is falling and their entire industry is being threatened, at MODassic we aren’t concerned at all. In fact, it fits in perfectly with our philosophy and how we have approached search engine marketing all along.
At MODassic, we always take a user-centered approach to SEO. While we are a top performing, Google certified agency and do a lot of search-related work, we never get caught up in the latest SEO tactics and daily search algorithm changes. Instead of focusing on what Google is doing today, we look at where they are heading.
We know Google is interested in providing the most relevant and accurate search results to users. Therefore, we focus our entire inbound marketing, digital strategy, SEO efforts (whatever you want to call it) on creating the most relevant content, converting prospects into leads, and nurturing those leads into customers.
Seeing what keywords drove traffic was definitely nice and was something we used to look at and report on — primarily because it was something clients like to see. But for us it has never directed strategy. We simply looked at it and then got back to work.
In the old days, search engines relied on a website’s keywords in the meta tag to tell the search engine what that page was about. Marketers that focused on the day-to-day tactics and not the big picture ended up stuffing those meta tags with keywords and built rankings off that. It worked… for a bit. Of course, Google got smarter and now Google completely ignores meta tag keywords for obvious reasons. Search marketers who relied on meta tag keyword stuffing freaked out and lost rankings, traffic and business. (If your SEO firm or marketers are talking to you about meta tag keywords and how your site doesn’t have them, that’s a big red flag and like someone trying to sell you a pager if you’re in the market for a new smartphone. They don’t get it.)
While that is a simple (yet outdated) example, it speaks directly to our point. Instead of hanging on every keyword and wasting time with minor keyword phrasing adjustments, a forward-thinking SEO strategy should actually be a content strategy. It should focus on developing an ongoing content strategy that speaks directly to well-defined target audience personas at each stage of the sales cycle. When it comes to reporting the effectiveness of this content strategy you should shift from reporting on outdated ranking reports and traffic by keyword to reporting on how many leads came from that content and how many of those leads became customers.
Keyword rankings should be a thing of the past and I’m surprised to see that some SEO companies still report on them. For one, there is no longer one set of true rankings as search results are personalized based on location, search history, social connections and a number of other factors. Instead of wasting time with ranking reports, we focus on guiding our clients into developing a marketing strategy that doesn’t focus on keyword rankings and site visits, but rather a content strategy that focuses on measuring conversions into leads and leads into sales – measuring true ROI. After all, you can’t take rankings and traffic to the bank.
If you think your search marketing strategy is relying on outdated search strategies and not focusing on the big picture — we’d love to chat!