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Google giveth and taketh away search metrics

Lots of folks are aware of how much tumult exists in digital marketing techniques.  We know that there is a new social media opportunity every day, that now mobile is “an imperative” (finally), and that even in venerable search marketing, nothing ever stands still. Just look at all the changes in local search over the last few years as evidence. But something that is sometimes overlooked is how frequently search marketers must adjust their tools to cope with changes that have nothing to do with the way users experience search. One area that has been alive with change lately is search metrics.

You probably heard the uproar recently when Google announced that all searchers who are signed into their Google accounts will have their search results encrypted, so that the standard referrer that comes to your Web analytics package won’t know what search term was used. The uproar did not come from the searchers themselves or from privacy advocates, who I believe generally appreciate anything that adds to user control over their data. No, the tumult came from search marketers.

Google claims that this won’t affect more than 10% of search results (which is still a lot), and that you can get some of that data back when you use Google Webmaster Tools. And it doesn’t affect paid search, which cynics said reflects Google’s wariness of doing anything that disrupts their cash register. The question remains as to whether SEOs are being forced into using Webmaster Tools for things they used to get from their own analytics package.

Those same search marketers utter nary a peep when Google hands them data they did not have before, which is human nature. Google Analytics has recently released a new version that provides something never available before, the rank of a search result when it was clicked. This function seems to work only when searchers are logged into their Google Accounts (interesting) or from Google Instant, but it’s perhaps a harbinger of things to come.

I’ve long talked about how personalization defeats the whole idea of rank checking. I always thought that Google would start making available average rankings for pages, or percentages (this page ranked #1 for 23% of searchers), but this seems even better. If every search engine made the rank available of the page when it was clicked, that would be extremely helpful and would eliminate the need for any other rank checking. And if analytics programs could make this data easy to incorporate, so that we didn’t need custom referrer variables are any other nonsense, that would allow us to focus on the rankings of the pages that people are clicking. (Because who cares about the rank of a page that no one clicks?)

Anyway, as annoying as it is that we need to keep adjusting out tools and systems so that we continue to get what we did before, we still run into ways to sometimes get new data that helps us as never before. What are you doing to adjust your metrics systems? How are you responding to these changes?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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