Au Revoir Keyword Data
With Google’s recent stealth announcement to make all searches secure, SEO’s and business owners–who use keyword data to make important decisions about website traffic– are once again left scratching their heads.
News of the move has sent the media into a frenzy and created quite a buzz among online marketing professionals. Here are just a few of the headlines.
It’s an interesting dichotomy, the relationship between Google and SEOs. Google is essentially the reason that SEO (and PPC) as a profession exists. Sure, if Google didn’t exist, we may still be optimizing AOL or Microsoft-run search engines, but we all know the lion’s share of searches belong to Google. They’ve fundamentally changed the landscape forever, and in doing so, created an entirely new field.
Yet from time to time, Google makes a move (like the first search encryption in May 2010) that sets the community it helped create on edge. This latest example, completing removing keyword data from Google Analytics, has many SEO folks concerned about the usefulness of Google Analytics and even the future of SEO.
Google also recently started pushing a $150,000/year version of Analytics that has folks in this office wondering if they are going to start charging a premium for keyword access. (Note: there has been no indication of this yet and this is purely speculation.) To add more salt to the wound for SEOs, the keyword data is not going away for anyone using Google’s AdWords platform.
But I’d like to stop right there.
Does it suck that Google pulled the plug on keyword data in Google Analytics? Yes. Is there any chance we’ll get that data back? Probably not. But that won’t stop smart SEO’s from providing amazing value to their clients. It’s just that the nature of SEO is changing.
SEO Landscape Shifts
It’s time to face the facts (if you haven’t already embraced them) that SEO is fundamentally changing. This should come as no surprise as SEO has constantly evolved in just the 6 brief years I’ve been involved. But this change feels different.
This is only my opinion, but SEO for SEO’s sake is going away. It’s being replaced by a much more holistic approach to online marketing. And that’s the way it should be.
Social signals, semantic markup, mobile devices, a move to cards in Twitter, Google, and others, geo-targeting ads, voice search, and many other changes in the web necessitate a fundamental shift in the way we think about inbound marketing. Hell, even SEOmoz changed their name to Moz, nixing the “SEO”. One of the reasons Rand gives for the name change is that “SEO is bigger than SEO”. I agree.
So what’s next? Well, my crystal ball is in the shop, but if I was a bettin’ man I’d be on the lookout for:
- Increased value for brands and brand awareness
- Really solid content and content strategies (this one is as old as the hills but has gotten a recent surge in popularity since “content strategy” became a buzzword),
- More emphasis on social signals
- Clean, functional code and super fast page load times
- On-page optimization (tried and true!)
- Keyword data mining from 3rd party tools, AdWords, and GWMT
- CRM integration for keyword level conversion and click-to-sale data becomes mainstream and expected
- Link Building (this signal will always be important and is tied into content)
- PR for digital (it’s great for link building and brand awareness)
In short, the world of online marketing is growing up and SEO companies (and all other online marketing companies for that matter) that want to be around 5 years from now need to embrace this change, continue to further their education, and keep a vigilant eye on the horizon.