What The Google Analytics Query Update Means For PPC

Well, it looks like the SEO community has collectively flipped their lid over the Google Analytics search query data update announced last Tuesday. For those of you out of the loop, here’s a short recap. You used to be able to see all of the search queries that users used to find your site within your Google Analytics reports. Now, thanks to a privacy/security update Google made for it’s users, you will no longer be able to see the search query data from users who are 1) signed in to their Google accounts, and 2) using organic results to reach your site. Google states that this change will affect less than 10% of searchers on Google.com, but industry observers remain skeptical.

Fortunately for us PPC folks, search query data from clickers of paid ads remains unaffected. While this has some disturbing implications regarding Google selling out private user information for the sake of earning a few bucks, it’s great news for people who use PPC and Google Analytics in tandem.

But, that doesn’t mean that PPC will be completely unaffected. Organic search queries are a gold mine for keyword expansion. You’re never going to guess all of the keyword combinations that people use to find your site, so reviewing organic search query data in Google Analytics is the best free user-generated keyword research that you can get. This privacy update is going to make all of us lose a chunk of that, which will make it a little more difficult to get the query data you need to do effective keyword research.

The most perilous implication of this change is that Google is willing to remove the tools that SEO specialists and PPC marketers need to succeed. Google has always been forthcoming with valuable (and free!) keyword and analytics tools to help search engine marketers succeed. This may be the most significant pull back they’ve done on that account. It’s still uncertain what the future holds after this change. Will Google remove keyword data entirely, or maybe just for organic traffic? How far are they willing to go to thwart people trying to game their algorithm? And how much advertiser good will are they willing to sacrifice in order to appease the privacy concerns of their users?

If Google continues to reduce their Google Analytics offering, I predict that there’s going to be a much stronger market for paid web analytics tools. Or maybe another paid search network (*cough* Microsoft *cough*) will step up their game and build an even better free analytics tool. Either way, it couldn’t hurt to start shopping around for free alternatives to Google Analytics right now.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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One Response to What The Google Analytics Query Update Means For PPC

  1. Jarad says:

    I wish – WISH – there was a way to, not even mass-boycott but mass-shift everyone away from a better alternative to Google. As they get bigger, they take more away from us while competing with us driving up our costs. I hope Google gets sued for claiming this is about privacy while allowing PPC marketers to buy search query data by doing paid search. How can it be a privacy issue if they are willing to sell this so-called private information to those willing to pay for it through PPC? Talk about a double-standard hypocritical point of view. Google needs to be taken down a few notches and be humbled.

    Microsoft is not a good competitor to take them down. Their advertising interface is pure web 1.0 garbage that they stupidly haven’t updated for years. Adcenter desktop tool is a crashing, resource-intensive piece of garbage that Microsoft should be embarrassed to put their logo on… you know, since their core competency is SOFTWARE.

    They can’t seem to make this very important software *right* despite knowing that it could bring in hordes of revenue for their company.

    We need an equivalent algorithm or better without all the Google PPC ad clutter – just the top content from all over the web. Perhaps better, more interesting search results rather than a bunch of links – boring.