I can’t speak for everyone, but across all of my sites Google keyword data has returned. Is it a glitch, or was Google just experiencing some downtime with that data while making some sort of upgrade? Why is Google Analytics so tumultuous lately? It’s too early to have any solid answers, but based on the changes in Google Analytics that I’m seeing I’ve got some thoughts that might be worth discussing.
Google Keyword Data Returns to Google Analytics
I don’t know why I even opened the tab to begin with. I’d already concluded my mourning period for the loss of my keyword data under the SEO tab in Google Analytics, but for some reason I clicked on it this morning and now I’m glad I did. I was surprised and confused to find not only current keyword data, but upon closer inspection I learned that keyword data from the past week (which was previously just blank) to have been retroactively returned. O GLORIOUS DAY! After all the bigwigs like Moz, SearchEngineJournal, etc. spent the last several days telling us how we didn’t really need keyword data or impression data to be good SEOs and how not having it would make us better, I’m still relieved that it appears to be back. After spending the last two hours delving into all of my Google Analytics accounts and re-verifying all of the data as well as making notes of the changes, I’ve got a quick report I’d like to file with all of you.
What I Found in My Google Analytics Keyword Data and Impression Data
First things first: Impression data is back. At first glance it looked as though impression data had just been placed back where it belonged. Of course, after reading through it all I noticed that the keyword impressions appeared more relevant to the content of my site. It used to be I’d get something that was what I call “search adjacent” meaning similar to, but not actually related to the content on my site. Now I see a lot less of that. One blog, which I haven’t added content to over the past week, seemed to have a massive spike in impressions. I’m not saying that has anything to do with anything because I haven’t yet had the time to dig into that data, but it was something that immediately stood out.
Another interesting find was that when I set the date range in Google Analytics to the previous week (let’s give it a dramatic name, shall we? How about Black September? SEO Apocalypse? We’ll come back to that…) I discovered that the keyword data which had not been there now was perfectly in place as though nothing had happened. What the hell, Google? All impression data, keywords, and organic search data were all in place as if the whole thing had been a dream. Has M. Night Shyamalan taken over Google Analytics?
Confusing Change in (Not Provided) Keyword Data
This, I think, was the biggest shocker to me. Most of my blogs do not utilize paid search. One of them does. The website that does use paid search happened to be the account I opened first. After rubbing my eyes in disbelief at the return of data under the SEO tab, I then took a peek at my data in Organic Search. (Not Provided) wasn’t there. At all. I had a huge list of keywords. It looked like the Organic Search tab of old. My heart skipped a beat, but in an effort to ground myself I switched to another account.
Upon opening Analytics for a blog that does not use paid search I was befuddled (though not surprised) to find that (Not Provided) still made up about 90+ percent of my total keyword data under the Organic tab. Under the SEO tab, it was identical to the account that used paid search. Now, I don’t have ready access to sites more sites with paid search so I can’t confirm anything as of yet, but what I’m seeing would suggest that paid search customers are being provided keyword data in the Organic tab of Google Analytics. This would fit in well with the prevailing theory that Google has been planning to monetize Analytics by using keyword data and paid search.
Then there’s the other possibility. This, much like the Google Webmaster Tools flub, could easily just be an accident. Perhaps something broke at Google or a Jr. level developer screwed up some code and, presto! all your keyword data returned. I sincerely hope that’s not the case. And if it is, I’ll be 100% convinced that M. Night Shyamalan was behind the whole thing.
TL;DR: What’s happening in Google Analytics?
It’s too soon to say for certain and the SEO community is going to need to confer, cross-examine, and compare data, but it looks like Google is using Paid Search to monetize keyword data.
It appears that semantic search is providing more specific and more relevant search results based on the newly returned keyword data.
This could easily just be a glitch and all our hopes and dreams will be dashed upon the jagged rocks once more. Brace for impact.
My keyword data is still there. It’s been 3 days, so I think we can rule out the “Google made a mistake” option. Now we have to ask, what’s the endgame? If keyword data is back along with all the data in the SEO tab, what was the point in it disappearing?