Slowly but surely Google is making it more and more difficult for all of us to do keyword research and target keyword phrases as our primary online marketing strategy and search engine optimization.
It all started to go downhill in late October 2011 when Google began hiding keyword information in Analytics. Google said they were increasing privacy protection of personalized search results. Google Analytics reports this hidden keywords in a single grouping called "Not Provided." Google tried to say that this would affect LESS than 10% of keyword tracking results, but now, 13 months later, many of the sites I'm working with show up to 20% of the keywords hidden in that grouping.
The importance of specific keywords was depreciated in 2012 with the Google Penguin filtering of links. You see, hyperlinks were the primary method that online marketing guys could target specific keyword phrases. Simply use a keyword as the "anchor text" for the link and *bam*, you have one extra vote in your favor for a keyword phrase. But then Google Penguin started filtering out all those link building votes, which in turn lowered the importance of keyword phrases even further.
If you're paying a company for search engine optimization then you probably get a ranking report every month that shows if you are moving up or down in ranking for specific keywords. Over the last few months these reports are showing less information because of the Penguin filter and the increase in "Not Provided" data.
Something new is on the horizon that will probably invalidate the entire keyword optimization industry by the end of 2013. I don't think my peers in the online marketing world have noticed it yet, so let me explain what I'm seeing...
Google is changing their policies on how their keyword data is allowed to be used. This change will adversely affect how many companies run their monthly ranking reports, to the point where it might not even be possible to create a keyword ranking report at all.
The reasons behind this get a little technical with jargon like APIs, AdWords Data, and Scrapped Information. The exact details are a little technical so I'll skip them for now.
The internet marketing world was appalled when "Not Provided" first began. Months later it all made sense when Google+ was announced. Google+ needed higher security, but the by-product of that security was the negative creation of keywords that could not be track and could "not be provided."
The Penguin filter caused another huge stir in the internet marketing world. This was Google's way of telling us we need to find more creative ways of online marketing that are not keyword based. But so far the internet marketing world is not listening to what Google is saying.
This latest policy change will force all of us to stop worrying about keywords and instead concentrate on producing quality content for our websites. By the end of 2013 we might be running ranking reports on full blog posts rather than the specific keywords within that blog.