If you’re not an SEO geek, this one might have slipped right by you, but Google recently dropped a bombshell on the industry by eliminating the reporting of organic search keyword data for website analytics reporting. In the past, users of the popular Google Analytics tool were able to see how searchers were finding their website content, and thus form strategies to amplify results by building keyword strategies into their website/ inbound marketing efforts. In short, this is due to the fact that Google is now encrypting users search queries when a user is logged in to a Google account (and apparently at times when they are not).

Well folks, the good times are over, and marketers have begun to see their organic search results reporting as keyword “not provided”, and the numbers are creeping up towards the 100% mark. This means you’ll no longer know what specific terms users searched to eventually land on your site. But like most things in life, when you’re handed lemons find a way to make lemonade!

It’s not all bleak!

keywordsWhile this lack of data certainly brings some unwanted mystery and adds unanswered questions to your reports, keep in mind that keyword data and search results are merely information related to past events. And since we can’t change the past, it’s a great opportunity to focus on the future! For the brave and courageous marketers out there, it lends an opportunity to refocus efforts around marketing to people’s persona’s, not just their search habits. In other words, create great content that matters and people will help other people find it. In fact, the only secret to having your content become highly shareable by others is for it to be engaging, entertaining, intelligent and timely. Creating killer content really does work, as long as it’s something people care about. And if those people that care typify your ideal user / buyer than you’re one step ahead.

The end of compromise is coming.

Optimizing search for known key phrases has caused some marketers to reach for the low hanging fruit of off-topic key phrases in the hopes of magnetizing some traffic to their website. While it might boost the numbers, it doesn’t add up to future qualified customers (necessarily), and could dilute your brand messaging. Building an authentic brand is about just that, being authentic to your audience and speaking directly to them about things that matter in their world, and speaking in your own brand voice. Have you ever come across a blog post that you know has been written by a brand outsider? Sometimes you can just tell, and regardless of the content, it can feel a bit hollow.

Get creative in your search for search.

Understanding trends in search behavior for topics like pop culture, business matters, social buzz and so on will give you a clue as to what people are talking about today and likely into the future. The Google Trends site is a great resource for insights on topics relevant to your business. Here is some research (for example) on the trend in search results for ‘inbound marketing’ and ‘print advertising’.

While this doesn’t give you insight on specific long tail keywords, it can sure give you some valuable information about trending topics relevant to you and your audience.

Rely on your Inbound Marketing team to dig deeper.

There are some other options for extracting keyword insights from your website including Google Webmaster tools and platforms like Hubspot that your inbound marketing team can rely on to help manage your content marketing strategy. Collaborating with industry experts is often the shortest path to success with the highest yield in results.

If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that the landscape of keyword research and reporting is drastically changing, but it’s changing for everyone. The playing field is still as level as it ever was, it’s up to savvy talented marketers and great brands to pull it all together to generate exceptional results.