There is a growing wave of anger and resentment towards Google by SEO experts incensed over Google’s recent decision to block what are known as “keyword referral data,” the search terms that lead a visitor to a website.
The outrage stems not only from the fact that the keyword data is being blocked, but that Google’s paying AdWords customers are able to see the data, which had been freely available to everyone previously.
Google claimed its motive for encrypting and blocking the keywords was to protect user privacy, but many in the SEO community see that as a not very convincing cover story.
A more likely reason is that Google is trying to choke off access to the valuable keyword data to competing ad networks, said Aaron Wheeler of SEOmoz in an emergency blog post that analyzed the Google changes.
The net effect is that, for a percentage of searches, SEO practitioners will no longer be able to tell which keywords sent a logged-in Google visitor to a site. Instead of keywords appearing in their analytics dashboards, they see the words “Not Provided.” This, say SEO practitioners, affects their ability to perform their jobs.
When Google announced the change in October 2011, it said the number of blocked keywords would be insignificant, in the less than 10% range for most websites. However, SEO practitioners are reporting steadily climbing numbers in the 20% to 30% range. Even low percentages of blocked keywords, some SEOs have said, can be detrimental to their efforts.
“What started as a minor inconvenience has turned into a nightmare for SEO companies that are now faced with the reality of inaccurate reporting and guessing games when it comes to analyzing their organic traffic,” wrote Will Gallahue on the Fahrenheit Marketing blog.
The issue is serious enough that SEOs are posting petitions and urging one another to speak to their representatives in Congress.
“There is a lot of, I think, fear and uncertainty right now in the analytics world,” wrote Aaron Wheeler of SEOmoz.
“This is a total abuse of Google's monopoly and I can't believe they would even think about this in the middle of their ongoing anti-trust investigation,” commented Drew Hammond on the SEOmoz blog.
“If Google starves white hat SEOs of the data we need to help them stay at the top, they may force us to help their competitors instead,” wrote the Stores Direct SEO practitioner on SEOmoz.
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