There have been many articles thrown around about Google’s recent announcement they are removing keyword referral data for paid search traffic in Google Analytics. Some of these reports may be misleading. Some individuals may be led to believe that all data is lost.
We just want to say upfront that the news isn’t ALL negative and certainly not as bad as losing all keyword data. This update is our way of helping clear the air and clarify any misunderstandings about the recent announcement. (Don’t worry; paid search keyword data is not dead!) This current announcement could be labelled a sequel or a continuation to the Google agenda of providing more secure search that officially started in 2011. Following an official statement on the 4th October 2013 by Google around the withholding of referrer data for organic traffic, Google has announced on Wednesday the 9th April 2014 that it will commence the removal of search query data from the referrer on ad clicks originating from SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) searches on Google.com. Google will do this by removing the search query section of the parameter (The parameter that Google Analytics relies on to provide keyword data within their interface). The below is how it looks like on the URL string. This is a Google UK example of an AdWords URL string with the search query parameter: https://www.google.co.uk/aclk?sa=l&ai=CS7RvDIhMU5Jzy-DxBf_PgJAE3KnZhwHqj5-Xbsr7oAcIABADKANQ2bfzgwVgu76ug9AKoAGL2Y3_A8gBAakCe6CNS3kOvD6qBCFP0HrHqK41WU8rVaQICjSub0z_ tfmr_JkGpu3OZ9iSwwCAB92mcpAHAw&sig=AOD64_1hGlIkIPJeyBgM6kHSHnkaGs_GDg&rct=j&q= london+hotel+deals&ved=0CDwQ0Qw&adurl=https://www.hoteldirect.co.uk/london When the referrer data is removed, the URL will end up looking like: https://www.google.co.uk/aclk?sa=l&ai=CS7RvDIhMU5Jzy-DxBf_PgJAE3KnZhwHqj5-Xbsr7oAcIABADKANQ2bfzgwVgu76ug9AKoAGL2Y3_A8gBAakCe6CNS3kOvD6qBCFP0HrHqK41WU8rVaQICjSub0z_ tfmr_JkGpu3OZ9iSwwCAB92mcpAHAw&sig=AOD64_1hGlIkIPJeyBgM6kHSHnkaGs_ GDg&rct=j&q=&ved=0CDwQ0Qw&adurl=https://www.hoteldirect.co.uk/london
You may be asking yourself: That sounds interesting and all, but why is this important to me as an Advertiser on Google AdWords?
There is one major impact that you as a user of Google Analytics (GA) will start noticing and that is paid search keyword data will soon be hidden from any software that relies on the referrer string to display paid search keywords. This unfortunately includes the popular GA software. For Google Analytics, you will start to notice when you go to Keywords > Paid, the (not provided) (or some other term) will start to pop up and prevent users from seeing the actual paid search query used by visitors to reach your site. This will come to the dismay of users who regularly use GA to report on paid search performance as it will restrict the ability to gather data on particular insights. Some of the key insights we have identified that will be no longer available from within Google Analytics include:
- The ability to quickly toggle the conversion type to report on different types of conversions (can’t be done in AdWords interface but can be done in GA)
- The ability to report on the Behaviour metrics at the keyword level e.g. Bounce Rate, Pages/Visit and Average Visit Duration.
- The ability to track the landing pages for each search query (AdWords does not readily show you the destination URL for all search queries, this can easily be done in GA)
Alternative Methods of Retrieving Paid Search Keyword Data
So we did mention that not all is lost and we can still view keyword data, albeit in a different format. All third-party services using AdWords through an API such as Marin, Kenshoo, and Raven Tools should be able to access keyword data, as they do not rely on the referrer strings. (Please contact relevant third parties for further details) so if you are using any third party software platform with an AdWords API, you are safe. Users can also access detailed paid search referrer data in the AdWords search terms report by toggling the Details tab as shown below:
Given this will affect the reporting routine of marketing teams and consultants, we recommend disseminating this information as quickly as possible. To avoid any panic and confusion, put together a statement on this news and educate all relevant stakeholders (you could include a link to this blog post as well if it helps…). For marketing managers, this may include your team, any senior management and other departments. For agency professionals, we recommend getting in touch with relevant stakeholders from each of your clients that are running AdWords.
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White Chalk Road are a specialist Search Marketing Agency based in Perth, with over 20 years’ experience in the industry. As a Google Premier Partner, WCR specialise in SEO, Search Marketing, Advertising & Marketing Automation. WCR help Perth businesses, across both B2B and B2C markets, who need help being found online by their customers.