Big Google News: Not Provided Hits 100% & Hummingbird Update Announced

Posted on Categories Analytics, Search Engine Optimization

Summer is over and that means news and announcements in the SEO world are heating up. In the last few weeks Google has made some changes leaving many SEOs and marketers lamenting days gone by. Let's look at the announcements and what that means for us:

Not Provided Reaches 100%

Google has finally done it! The day many SEOs have feared is upon us. The day keyword referral traffic from "not provided" hits 100%. 

What's Going On?

If you weren't in the loop or haven't noticed the strange (not provided) keywords in Google Analytics, here's what's going on.
About 2 years ago, Google added a secure search option and started removing keyword referral data for users that were signed in. This meant that site owners would no longer be able to attribute exactly what keywords in Google were driving traffic. Originally, Google claimed that the number of searches that would be affected was going to be less than 10%. That number grew, however, and crept higher and higher.
This past week, Google announced that all searches will be secure. That means no keyword referral data will be reported through Google Analytics.

Why Did Google Do That?

Google's reasons for the switch are security, privacy, and user experience. They figure that not everyone wants their searches to be public or want their search history to be used by marketers.
The caveat here is that you can get full keyword data if you're running AdWords campaigns. Essentially Google is still offering the data, you just have to pay for it.

What Can I Do?

If you want to go back to the old days where you see full keyword data from Google, that's not going to happen. You do have a few alternatives that will give you a partial picture, though:
  • Check out keyword impressions in Google Webmaster Tools
  • Look at organic traffic to landing pages in Google 
  • Get an AdWords account 🙁

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Google's Hummingbird Algorithm

The next major announcement is that of Google's new Hummingbird algorithm update. 

What is It and What Does It Do?

Hummingbird is Google's biggest algorithm update since the Caffeine update in 2009. At it's core, Hummingbird is Google updating the way it handles search queries to better deliver results in a conversational search context. Google is now analyzing all parts of a users search more closely to determine the context of the query and provide more accurate results.

How Does it Impact Me?

First of all, Hummingbird was actually rolled out in late August before Google's official announcement nearly a month later. If you saw any ranking or traffic fluctuations around August 21st through the 24th, you may have been affected by Hummingbird. Overall, the change went relatively unnoticed by most site owners and marketers.
Hummingbird is just the most recent move by Google to update their search technology to cater to mobile users. Conversational search favors the "ask a question" way of searching over the traditional keyword search because you're interacting with a device the same way you would another person. If you haven't already been thinking about how people will interact with your site on mobile devices, now is a great time to start. These changes show that Google is putting mobile user experience at the forefront of their search strategy.

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