How online marketing data is hidden in the name of privacy July 10, 2013

We know that large Internet companies collect and store data on a gargantuan scale. As Mark Zuckerberg once said, “the age of privacy is pretty much over”.

Irony alert!

With this in mind, it’s quite laughable to find that web giants hide basic data in the name of privacy. Information that’s deeply intrusive, like the content of personal emails, has never been available to anyone accept the web companies themselves – and, we now learn, the US government. However, small businesses are being arbitrarily affected by this policy, as trying to find out which keywords bring visitors to your site has now deemed out of bounds.

Marketers and businesses have gotten used to being able to track how people find their site via Google Analytics – it allows the user to see which words people enter into search engines to find their site. Without this data, it’s hard to know what’s pushing your online business or plan an effective marketing campaign.

Let them try to find your cake

Say, for example, that you’re in the business of selling wedding cakes in London. Google Analytics used to say 80% of your search traffic was derived from the keywords ‘buy wedding cake in London’ or that most people searched for ‘bespoke wedding cakes London’. The important thing was that by having this information you’re able to tailor your marketing and SEO campaigns around the aforementioned search terms.

However, try using that function now and your Keyword report looks as though an FBI agent has been let in there with a black marker pen. Information has now been redacted in the form of a (not provided) notfification. And Google isn’t the only one doing it. Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari are also encrypting their search data, making it even harder for the average business to know what’s attracting people to their site.

Let them buy more cake

So why is this is happening? As you’ve probably guessed it has nothing to do with privacy. Analytics doesn’t say who’s typing which keywords so how can it invade a person’s privacy. It’s about money. The web giants are in cahoots to try and increase their AdWords revenue by taking away the ability to target specific keywords for advertising. After all, if you don’t know which search terms are effective you’ll feel that you have no choice but to pay for a wider range of keywords.

That being said, this isn’t the end of the road for SEO or analytics – we do still have access to some very useful data. But it does mean SEOs and online marketers are going to be more creative in determining what works and what doesn’t. How exactly? You’ll have to wait and see what’s up our sleeves…


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1 Response to How online marketing data is hidden in the name of privacy

  • Making a very serious point. Privacy should be total or there is no room for half-baked solutions. Very hypocritical to use it this way. Thanks


    8 August 2013 at 12:01