Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Not Provided" by Google

Metrics and analytics are easily available to marketers today.  They have changed the way marketing is done.  We measure almost every aspect of sales and marketing data - from costs per lead / opportunity / deal to conversion rates / times, as well as details of each marketing and sales campaign.

It is not a secret that often organic search-generated leads are among the best from the cost-efficiency and conversion perspective.  Naturally, many marketing organizations work on increasing these by SEO and other means.  It is a process of trial and error, where you change one variable at a time and measure the outcome.

In this process, Google Analytics has been a great tool.  It was great to know the keywords prospects find you by.  Furthermore, you could study the customer behavior for each keyword, identifying the best keyword phrases and improving messaging, marketing programs and sales tools.  Everybody won - prospects got relevant content / products; search engines provided better results; vendors got better leads.

Well, that all changed a few weeks ago, when Google decided to "mask" searches from people who are logged in a Google service, such as Google Docs or Google+.  Instead of seeing results for specific searches by these folks, now we see just "Not Provided."  This makes major elements of SEO analytics useless.  And if you are marketing to SMB It, where a large percentage is using some kind of a Google product, about 30-40% of your searches fall in "Not Provided" category.

This is very un-Google like. I hope Google figures out a way around this problem.  And AdWords is not the answer, because there is a big difference in buying behavior of people who are clicking on paid search vs. organic search links.  But for now, "Not Provided" is our new reality.