The SEO world is doing what it does best, setting its hair on fire and running around screaming about how SEO is dead and that Google killed it and everything is ruined for ever before flipping over their desks and running into the street.
If you don’t know what happened, and 98% of people have no reason to know, Google stopped providing information on what keyword people searched for before they landed on your site. This has been in process for a while. It started in the end of October, 2011 when Google started stripping keyword data for people searching behind a secure server. Then Firefox made that the default, and Chrome followed suit, and then Safari did. Really, all Google did yesterday was force Internet Explorer to catch up where the other search engines were a year ago.
Why is this a big deal? It’s useful to know how people show up to your website and what keyword they used to get there. It can tell you where your website is succeeding by showing you the top terms, and it can show you where you’re failing when keywords don’t show up when you think they should. It also takes away the ability to know what keywords (or types of keywords) convert. Tracking conversions on a keyword level can be very time consuming, but in an ecommerce environment it can tell you a lot about what people are looking for and where you can improve things.
Here at Walker Sands, we’re looking into ways to use the keyword data in Webmaster tools to gain insights into search (even if the data isn’t quite as full) and also learning as much as we can from search landing pages. Knowing what page someone lands on can tell you a lot about who they are and what they’re hoping to learn. By combining the landing page data with the webmaster tools keyword data, we should be able to get a good picture of who the visitors are and how we can create a more satisfying visit for them.
Google has been saying a long time that the key to success on the web is through creating good content, and this change should push the industry to do more of that. By not focusing on individual keywords, which are incredibly granular, we can take a look at our websites as vast canvases instead of focusing on the individual brushstrokes of keywords.
Remember, the sky isn’t falling, Google doesn’t hate you personally, and they aren’t trying to destroy your business.