Google Keyword Data Goes Bye-Bye

September 2013 is a month that will live in infamy for online marketers, as Google has finally moved to block access to organic search keyword data. This move could spell trouble for marketers and law firms addicted to keyword data in analytics. However, this should be no more than a nuisance to firms with an integrated marketing strategy that isn’t heavily dependent on keyword data.

It wasn’t hard to see the writing on the wall. Since 2010, Google has been moving towards secure search, which is their justification for blocking access to keyword data for organic search.

A Timeline of Secure Search

Google first made secure search available in 2010, when it gave users the option to go to a secure version of the search page ( vs. However, this was completely voluntary and was not widely used by searchers.

  • In October 2011, Google began using secure search automatically for all users logged into their Google accounts. So, if you were logged into your Gmail while doing a search in the same browser, you were redirected to the secure search page and any search phrase you typed in was not shared outside of Google.
  • In July 2012, Mozilla Firefox got on board and moved to secure Google search with version 14 of Firefox. According to Mozilla, “We automatically make your Google searches secure in Firefox to protect your data from potentially prying eyes, like network administrators when you use public or shared WiFi networks.”
  • Apple Safari iOS6 got on board in September 2012 when the operating systems began routing all Safari Google searches through secure Google search.
  • In January 2013, Google announced that all searches done through Google Chrome’s omnibox—the address bar—would use secure search. This move blocked even more organic search keyword data for organic search.
  • Finally, in September 2013, Google stated, “We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year. We’re now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in.”

So Keywords Are Gone. Now What?

Even though Google has redefined organic search keyword data as private information, that doesn’t leave you without options for strategic website optimization.

You can use the Search Queries Page in Google Webmaster Tools to see information about search queries that led to searchers finding pages on your website. This information isn’t as helpful as the Google Analytics organic search keyword data, but for many, it will be better than nothing.

Really, this change is going to be more of an issue for SEOs and marketing companies than it will be for most solo attorneys and small law firms. Keep focused on your brand, keep focused on providing an excellent product (be a great lawyer!), and focus on providing a great user experience on your website with relevant, helpful content. Those constants will always work in your favor.

Matt Casey
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SEO Analyst & Web Strategist
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