As far back as 2011, Google was discussing in some detail how to ‘make search more secure’. The initial herd mentality was one of suspicion, push back and annoyance. Yet here we are, mid-2014, and I’m happy to announce that the emergence of ‘not provided’ data has been one of the greatest positives in the SEO industry for a long time.
For me, this isn’t even a bold statement or an opinionated outburst, it’s a simple fact based on causation and correlation of the removal of keyword specific click/post click data, based on the impact it has had on SEO.
It’s not about single keywords
Some of the biggest regrets among people who have worked in SEO for long periods of time will be the number of hours they wasted focussing solely on single key terms. If a single key term drops a few places the campaign is deemed to be failing (even if traffic is up 50% year on year). Meanwhile, a single hero key term achieves 1st position in Google and the campaign is hailed a success (for about a day, or maybe a week, until everybody realises that nothing else has really improved).
OK, the above is a little extreme. I could have said 30 keywords, or 50, but historically there were very few people talking about SEO without talking disproportionately about specific keywords.
Looking at an entire website; identifying areas of meaningful growth, constantly expanding into identified segments of relevant visibility and delivering results over additional measurements of key performance is exciting for everyone involved, right?
Data is guiding us
When you remove a distraction you are able to focus more on the facts.
Keywords have always been a distraction in the SEO industry. This is mainly because a large number of customers understand specific terms and associated rankings (assuming zero other data expertise; GA, GWT, analysis packages and bespoke reporting tools) at day one of a new SEO service delivery. Also, they understand how to monitor progress on these whenever they want to check ‘success’.
The increases in personalised search, local search, not provided data, search term relevancy, semantics, intent (the list goes on) have inevitably led towards the realisation that other things have to take priority over single – and small groups – of keywords.
Google Analytics (GA) data has always been Google’s greatest gift to SEO. The addition of pre-click data and the importing/merging of GWT data within GA accounts have empowered SEO experts to deliver so much more to customers. This has come through data analysis and practical implementation of strategy that, in many circles, is not even referred to as SEO.
SEO has become digital marketing, search marketing and other variations on the same theme.
Actually for me, SEO is truly becoming seen in its correct light; the key service that acknowledges, adds value to and learns from all other interlaying mediums (both online and offline) for greatest success in search.
If you are running SEO in isolation (ignoring social media, PPC, user experience, conversion rate optimisation and numerous other areas) you are restricting what SEO is and what it can achieve.
It’s all about value
I wrote a blog on SEO value that’s worth a quick skim read if you’re unclear what I mean by value. In this context I simply mean ‘making things better’.
Can anyone argue that focussing on making things better, rather than focussing on a few specific keywords, is not an improved approach to SEO?
I would also debate whether there is anyone (and if there is anyone then the percentages would be miniscule) that can, hand on heart, say they are not looking at much more data, lots of additional value add touch points, or simply targeting a greater number of value add metrics than they were pre-‘not provided’ data.
People trust SEO again
As SEO experts we are able to remove barriers to success. We can help people recover from penalties, rebuild online reputations and offer guidance into new areas of business expansion and success.
The opportunities to empower businesses through SEO have never been greater than they are right now and the reason for this is simple; we are focussed on value over keywords.
SEO never died, SEO has never been dying (despite the perpetual post that trots out biannually on the ‘death of SEO’), but the approach to SEO has been revived.