Not Provided, a Blessing in Disguise

There was an earthquake of sorts yesterday that rocked the world of many online marketers, specifically SEO’s. Google officially acknowledged the move to 100% encrypted search. What does this actually mean? More importantly, how does it impact the marketer, webmaster, SEO and the like?

Before we dive in, let’s take a few steps back. Google started using encrypted search as far back as 2011. In other words, this is not new news. Google started by encrypting what they considered a small set of searches, according to Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team. However, it turned out that almost 40% of searches were encrypted.

Google Wants to Make Money, How About You?

Google states the shift is to protect the amount of eavesdropping and speed up search results. In other words, they want to handicap every webmaster for the best interest of the end user. Perhaps this explanation was best stated by online expert and guru, Danny Sullivan. He accuses Google of being hypocritical. And to be perfectly honest, we agree with his comments. In sum, Sullivan writes that Google makes all these altruistic assertions so to speak, yet the data is still provided to advertisers via the paid channel. These advertisers are Google’s most important contributor to their top line. We at EliteSEM, happen to benefit from such data while managing effective paid search campaigns, but let’s not digress too far here.

So where are we at now? Google is suggesting, perhaps subliminally, perhaps not, that spending money via Paid Search is a preferred way for you to drive traffic. Not only that, you are now handicapped in the organic space. From PLA’s to ad extensions, organic space in SERPS is starting to shrink. This reminds me of the days when I started in the online space. I managed Paid Inclusion Campaigns in Overture, which then was bought by Yahoo and became Search Submit Pro. People hated it, because the organic space was being trumped by paid listings. Is this Déjà vu or was Yahoo on to something?

Just this year, Google replaced its external Keywords tool with Google Ad Planner. In a nut shell, to acquire the same data you must now connect to Google Analytics with your Adwords account, and then login to Adwords to access the data. Does this not smell like omni-channel silo breaking marketing to you? SEO’s now logging into paid search tools to get better insight into organic keywords. This is one-part holistic marketing as it inspires or at least sets the stage for SEM’s to talk more with SEO’s and vice versa, but this is also part of Google’s plan to invoke more people using Adwords.

Then the earth shook, and the tsunami overtook the floodgates of online marketing reason. At EliteSEM we took the deliberate approach of not responding right away. Reason being, with any disaster, natural or online, the best course of action is to fully assess before reacting. As my White Water Rescue Trainer told me on the shores of the upper Salmon River in Oregon while completing my rescue certification, you must always assess before jumping in. If you jump in too soon, you may make it worse. Whether rescuing a person in a class V rapid, or your own website, get the full story first. Then take clear, direct and informed action.

The Bird Saves the Day?

Ok, maybe not. But Google Hummingbird is here, and its wings are flapping a million miles an hour. Encrypted search, Adwords, Keywords, Penguins, Pandas and Hummingbirds too? Yes, I know it’s a zoo out there. Always enter at your own risk and have an expert at your side.

As it turns out, there is more to the story. Our waiting paid off. Google announced the release of the Hummingbird Algorithm. I like this release on many levels. First, it is clear indication that Google is saying, stop focusing on one keyword organically. In fact, this rang loud in clear in Panda 2.0. Sites need to build a brand, story and a name. Not just online, or SEO wise, but social media, and every other marketing silo out there. Once that is done, bust them and be a holistic marker. Want me to ruffle your feathers again? This means Direct Marketing is back too.

Build a good site, clean and quick user experience, differentiate and create authority, and focus on the all touch points, not just the one keyword. This is the new mantra for SEO.

Back to the little bird we go. Hummingbird really is a shift toward sophistication. Google has been focused on connecting users to more relevant sites quicker. In other words, Google is an answer engine. Hummingbird is geared toward the where, whys, and what— queries that are long tailed to the T. These long tail queries are more popular than ever, and again it speaks volumes in light of everything. Focus on all touch points from long tail keyword to user experience. Likewise, bring the right experts into the conversation because it’s going to be full of sharp curves, steep bends, and class V rapids. There is something to be said when your digital marketing team, for example SEO and SEM, is from the same organization. Alignment is more important than ever. Build your story, and make it through this zoo unscathed and stronger than ever.

In summary, what hides behind Not Provide is in many ways not relevant. As a webmaster or SEO you need to adjust your gaze and move away from the top 5 keyword approach. You need to look at all the outliers and provide a solid experience for all users and not just the ones coming in from the “big term.” Diversity in approach, diversity in focus, and aligning teams internally will not only make you know your business better, but also provide the best experience for all users. No two keywords are alike, though if you truly take the holistic approach you will see how Google will help you and your bottom line, not just theirs.

Here are some pointers on how Not Provided is a blessing in disguise, and map to guide you through the dangers of the online world we call Google.

Top Ten Ways to Turn Not Provided into an SEO Opportunity:

  1. Keyword ranking is better than keyword traffic data. Leverage the best of market tools, which are affordable to track hundreds if not thousands of keywords to understand where you can improve your rankings. Better rankings do equal better traffic. Do you have the right tools?
  2. Stop looking at just one keyword, look at many. Tail terms are important. Diversify and reinforce that you are an authority in your space. Shift your media, content, blog focus to target these outliers and convert them to tipping points. An effective strategy needs to start yesterday.
  3. Invest in enterprise level tools. They are expensive, but if you partner up with the right SEO firm they will likely include use. We license Conductor and offer it as part of our services. Tools can provide effective and scalable insights, including where you are not ranking, but where your competitors are. Just so happens, Conductor released a new tool in anticipation of this happening.
  4. Not provided is a god send for good SEO’s. Hire a rock star SEO. This may appear to be biased, as I am one. But I can assure it is not. If you are not an electrician, would you start wiring your own house? Probably not. Leave the danger for the experts. It will truly separate the amateurs from the rock stars. There are intelligent and effective ways for leveraging the data that still remains.
  5. Leverage the data you already have. Augment with Webmaster Tools, Moz, and project traffic based on estimates and position. Simple formulas can help you shed some light on this ambiguity.
  6. Build your team, and communicate. If your Social Media team, SEM team, SEO team, Direct Marketers do not talk, now is good time to change that. The left needs to know what the right is doing. Holistic marketing is not just an idea, it’s an application.
  7. Build your brand, your voice, and be the Authority. Listen to what the webmaster guidelines say, they are there for a reason. A good SEO will always make sure you are following the rules and putting your best foot forward.
  8. Paid Search is not going away; make sure you have the right partner to help guide you.
  9. SEO is not just about traffic, it’s about position. Experts will help you be more visible.
  10. Never stop testing.

And never forget to ask, are you satisfied with your online traffic? It’s a zoo out there, and we can help.

At EliteSEM, we’re always happy lend a hand in times of need. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the EliteSEM SEO team if you have any questions or need any advice.

Director of SEO: Zachary Ciperski

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