Monday, September 30, 2013

Google Giveth and Google Taketh Away

Our "friends" at Google have been busy of late. Well, they're always busy evolving but a couple of recent adjustments are particularly noteworthy.

First, on the positive front, Google's Hummingbird algorithm update was just announced (although it was actually implemented about a month ago). Google says it is now paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning – i.e., the inferred intent of the search – should do better, rather than pages matching just a few words. This shift to more semantic/conversational search vs. more literal keyword reliance further rewards the kind of naturally relevant and optimized content we recommend and implement as best practice for our clients. In fact, a spot check of our clients organic search traffic over the past month reveals increased visits from longer-tail searches.

Which brings me to the other news from Google. Last week Google announced, in the name of privacy, it was moving to full encryption of keyword search data. This move is not altogether surprising as Google started heading in this direction over the past couple of years with the encryption of searches by anyone signed in to a Google account (gmail, Google+, etc.). We have all seen the increase in “not provided“ keyword data and DBE has been advising our clients that what available keyword data there is needs to be taken as directional.

It’s important to note that this move doesn’t impact our ability to track and compare aggregate organic search traffic, conversions, etc. with other referral sources or previous periods. It’s just that now we’ll have even less keyword detail than before. Our tech team continues to test workarounds for this shift (as we were already doing given the increasing “not provided” trend) and we will share our thoughts on these once vetted. And for marketers who use Google PPC, that keyword data detail will continue to be provided and could prove useful in deciphering what’s happening organically as well.

So it goes with Google – a little give, a little take. Check back soon as you can be sure there’s always another update coming….

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