If you want to know the exact keywords your prospects are typing into Google to find your website, then you used to turn to Google Analytics (GA).  There’s a nifty report in GA called the “Organic Search Traffic Report” that used to list all the keyword phrases your prospects searched before clicking on your website in Google.com.

But now that keyword data is gone! Well, actually it’s been disappearing for quite some time now.  Back in May 2010, Google first launched “encrypted search,” which is a fancy way of saying that search phrase data will no longer be available (i.e. it’ll be encrypted over a secure connection).  From that day forward, you may have noticed the keyword “(not provided)” slowly became your most popular search phrase, while the real search data were phased out.


Why Did Google Remove Keyword Data?

The short answer is online security.

Of course there’s no shortage of conspiracy theories out there, but I’m going to trust Google on this one.  By hiding search data in GA, Google prevents businesses (and hackers of businesses) from matching search data to individuals.  Therefore, there’s no way for anyone to pry into your online search behavior.  So you can safely Google whatever your heart desires without the risk of it “going public.” Your secret Justin Bieber obsession is safe with Google. :)


How Can You Measure Your SEO Campaigns?

Great question! Just because Google removed keyword data from GA doesn’t mean you can’t measure the effectiveness of your search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns.

In fact, if you’re familiar with Google Webmaster Tools (GWT), then this news shouldn’t be a big deal.  GWT still provides keyword data and even shows how your rankings, clicks, click through rate, and impressions have changed over the past 30 days.  If you don’t have a GWT account, then click here to sign up for free.

Unfortunately, the GWT keyword reports do not show you the webpages that are ranking for each search phrase.  This limitation is admittedly quite annoying, but it can be overcome if you set up your website correctly for SEO. With proper on-page SEO, each of your webpages should be optimized for target keywords, which means you should be able to match your webpages to the keywords fairly easily.

In addition to using GWT, I still recommend GA.  GA will still report overall traffic trends from Google.com so you can see if your SEO traffic is going up, down, or staying constant over a period of time.   This data can also reveal algorithmic penalties like Panda or Penguin, which may have affected your website.

So even though Google removed a critical component in their analytics tool, all is not lost.  And this update should not be used as an excuse to stop tracking your SEO!