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Enforced HTTPS Searching Is Here. 'Not Provided' Just Got A Whole Lot Worse – Or Did It?

There has been an explosion of 'not provided' data in recent days now that Google has made search queries full-time HTTPS. How monumental is this to the SEO industry?

While there has been a great deal of conversation and debate, the simple fact is that the detailed key term data that once sat at the heart of an SEO campaign has been in decline since October 2011. In fact, it is now pretty much no more. Has Google placed the final nail in the old SEO coffin? Moz co-founder Rand Fishkin has described the shift as ‘The First Existential Threat to SEO'.

The 'not provided' timeline

  • October 19 2011 – Google announces that SSL encryption is to become the default for signed-in users (to protect users’ privacy). Google also recommends using Webmaster Tools for key term data
  • October 19 2012Danny Sullivan writes about the effect of 'not provided'
  • September 2013 – Google announces that ALL search queries will be ‘protected’ by HTTPS protocol


Image source: notprovidedcount.com

Even before Google ‘flicked the switch’ and made search queries 100% behind SSL, many were reporting high volumes of 'not provided' key term data. For many sites, as much as 75% of tangible data was being placed in the 'not provided' bucket. If you add the issues of completely ‘missing’ data through iOS6, you can see why many people believe SEO is getting too complicated, given that it is getting harder and harder to measure success.

In reality it is not getting harder. What we are experiencing as an industry is nothing more than an enforced change in the way that we think. There are many other ways in which to measure the success of an organic search campaign.

I can recall reading a comment a few years back (apologies for not remembering from whom, or where) that simply said that where Google was heading would “sort the men from the boys” in the SEO industry.  As comments go, I do not believe we have seen one that has been simpler or more prophetic.

Where does that leave the organic search/SEO industry?

For many, the increase in 'not provided' data is seen as another step toward the death of SEO. At Fresh Egg we disagree with this. Search is changing, search will continue to change. The launch of Hummingbird provides further thought as to where Google sees search evolving and where the company is headed in this journey.

For more on the impact of Google Hummingbird, read our blog post ‘Google Hummingbird: A Game Changing Search Algorithm Update?

At Fresh Egg, we have been planning for this eventuality for many months. Our approach to SEO has significantly changed. Focused on user intent and measuring performance beyond position and keyword, it is an approach that will gain a lot more exposure with the forthcoming launch of the Econsultancy SEO Best Practice Guide.

To be notified when the Econsultancy SEO Best Practice Guide is available for download, follow @FreshEgg on Twitter.

While the industry is still reeling and in a state of shock, I can calmly say, we are not!

Reclaiming keyword visibility

In the here and now, there are too many businesses that are still dependent upon key terms and rankings to measure SEO success. It is no wonder – key terms were the DNA of SEO. The equation was simple:

  • Early SEO – Add words on your page, create pages for every variant possible!
  • Mid-term SEO – Get quality links from as many sources as possible
  • Future SEO – Create an entity that provides value. Within the entity, ensure you are thinking of the audience. Think community, think brand, think connections, think inbound

While SEO is growing up, the fundamental DNA still exists. But the use of key terms has changed, search habits have evolved – and the intent of the user, therefore, has to be fully understood. Simply creating a page to match a set of key terms is yesterday’s SEO.  If you want to really engage with a user you need to understand why they are making a search query. At what part of the buying cycle is the query being used?  If a visitor does arrive at your website, is your offering doing all it can to ensure it meets the needs of the visitor? And what you can do better in the future to ensure your offering is meeting the intent of search?

Getting around 'not provided' data – introducing Notprovidedtool.com

Taking the step toward intent-based search will not come naturally to everyone. There are many people who will rely on the older key term volume-based SEO methodologies. To assist the transition, Dr David Sewell, a Senior Digital Consultant at Fresh Egg, has created a neural learning tool to replace the 'not provided' information that Google has taken away.

The tool is simply known as the Not Provided Tool and it does exactly what it says on the tin: it recovers 'not provided' data by learning how visitors came to the site previously. The system does far more than guestimate, it has a great deal more intelligence than simply taking what you had: it is predictive, it is here and it works!

The tool provides a level of keyword insight that is currently completely unavailable!


 Screenshot of example Notprovidedtool.com results

How it works

Notprovidedtool.com uses neural networks to learn about the visits to your site. A model is created from your known visitor data by automated learning from past visitor patterns.

Once the tool’s learning is complete, the model is then used to unpick 'not provided' visits – providing insights into the most likely keywords used.

Get your free trial of Notprovidedtool.com

Notprovidedtool.com is here – it works and is known to predict as much as 80% of your key terms that are now wrapped up in the 'not provided' bucket.

To use the tool and to gain insight into your current 'not provided' data visit www.notprovidedtool.com and sign up today.

Got any questions about 'not provided' or our Not Provided Tool? Feel free to give us a call on 0845 373 1071 or contact us online.



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