The Day that SEO Died (Sort of)

Search engine optimization professionals awoke yesterday morning to news that Google went "all in" on its initiatives to encrypt search data. Today, 100 percent of the referrer data on search queries from organic traffic is not provided. Folks, this is the day that SEO (as you know it) died...but that's OK because you're going to start thinking differently.

Google has effectively and virtually handcuffed the entire digital marketing community by encrypting search data. When Internet professionals like you don't have access to keyword search data, they won't know what drives traffic to their sites and they certainly won't be able to understand what strategic or tactical SEO efforts they make are resulting in conversions. Whether the intent is to drive you to AdWords or not, the main source of data for many enterprises has simply vanished overnight. It gets worse. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Or is there? 


Keyword data samples from Yahoo and Bing are too low, and the data provided by Google within Webmaster tools doesn't currently have page correlation much less conversion correlation. But that doesn't mean that savvy search engine optimization professionals (and SEO platform providers - ahem) aren't going to try. While one shortcut to getting this data back is to head on over to AdWords, there is a lot more work necessary to understand organic performance in the future for those that don't go this route in this new reality. But it's not the end of the Web world.

Here's what will likely happen. SEOs still have access to page-level data and more importantly can understand the referral source for each page. That's important information but it is only the first step to regaining some of the insights you had about the intent of your userbase yesterday (much less two years ago when keyword not provided wasn't even a thing). SEOs will now need to combine the rank tracking data they receive from popular search engine optimization tools (more on that below) and the search visit data per page (provided by any analytics tool), and cross reference and correlate that information with any keyword data that's available within Google Webmaster Tools (limited to 2,000 queries per day). Whew! That's going to be a lot of work!

The result of efforts like these today, for many, will be a long list of pages that get search visits and are known as those that target specific search terms, which, of course, rank in the SERPs. All that data crunching is going to come at an immense cost in time - much to the pleasure, we can assume, of platforms that make it their business to solve these sorts of problems. What will happen over time is that website owners will again turn to SEO solutions as a means to develop and control/manage their SEO efforts. These are tools and platforms Website Magazine regularly features such as WebCEO or Moz, as well as the numerous companies on last year's Master List of SEO Tools, which is almost ready for a new and improved 2013 version.

There is an even better way to handle this issue. Stop thinking about ranking entirely or which keywords cause which action on which page. Instead, focus on the user, their experience and the impact those customers make on your enterprise. That's likely not going to be the answer you want to hear, but that's what you'll get from anyone talking about this topic today.

In the future, you'll likely see even less data about your users (all in the name of privacy). But using marketing automation platforms connected with customer relationship databases and the robust big data capabilities of your SEO software solutions, will help all digital enterprises enter a truly new age, one where we'll evolve from SEOs to brand advocates who are more concerned with ROI than placement on a search engine.