24 Sep
2013

Google Goes 100% Not Provided Because Privacy – Privacy Advocates Enraged

Since no one has asked my opinion on Google’s decision to go 100% (not provided), I’m going to go ahead and provide it for free.

For more than a year, I’ve said either the industry was going to have to clean up on it’s own creeper-ness or the Government was going to get involved. Users are getting more and more freaked out by retargeting because they think advertisers are following them. This became so complicated that Target was able to send a pregnant teenage girl advertisements for diapers before she had told anyone, including her father she was pregnant.

The more these stories come out, the more freaked out the general public is going to be about it. Top it off with the NSA spying scandal and growing anti-government sentiment, in Google’s actions today we got a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B. Because of accusations of either implicit or explicit cooperation with the NSA, Google is encrypting all of their searches. Internet marketers who a month ago were railing against the Government and Google for spying on the American Public are now railing against Google because Google won’t let them spy on their customers…for free.

AdWords Budgets Will Increase?

Google still allows access to keyword data via the AdWords advertising platform so an advertiser can see what keywords trigger adds in Google Searches (and contextual sites) and industry types are pointing to that as a double standard. “We can get the same data, we just have to pay for it,” these people would seemingly say, forgetting that they’re two separate platforms. It’s really trying to compare apples and oranges. Starting an AdWords campaign because the lack of data from organic search doesn’t make any sense. The need for more keyword data isn’t that imperative, especially when conversions from AdWords and conversions from Organic search many times are two different sets of terms. Most practitioners worth their salt will tell you visitors from Paid Search behave differently than visitors from Organic Search.

It’s Nothing New

For those who never saw this coming, Google has been preparing for this for a while. The last couple of publicized updates to their algorithm, the Penguin 2.0 update was specifically going after over optimized text links; using specific keywords as hyperlinks to a web page. Initially this type of citation was the backbone of Google’s algorithm. So people manipulated it as much as possible, creating links and whole networks of sites dedicated to link back to a website with specific keywords as the hypertext. Google has plainly said they are going after these specific types of tactics with their most recent updates. Like the meta keywords tag, the actual keywords are being devalued.

New Stuff

We now have a whole new set of signals claiming which content is authoritative; social signals. I touched on this a little bit yesterday, but every tweet, like, +1, comment, pin, digg(?), etc. is a new way of determining authority. And while spam is running rampant on these social channels, it’s fairly easy to see. If it’s that obvious, the social spam won’t be counted towards any type of rankings. Right now, it’s probably easier to detect.

Again, as I pointed out yesterday, no one has actually said that these social signals are ranking factors, and many claims at direct causation have been dealt with by the comment police  The correlation strongly suggests though that items that tend to get shared a lot may have similar characteristics to items that would tend to rank highly in search engines.

Why, Google Why?

Lot’s of us are ironically bandying about the unofficial Google mantra “Don’t be evil” because Google can’t possibly do anything ever for the greater good. First they’re in league with the NSA, then when they claim privacy measures Google is clearly doing it to screw their customers. No one is saying to take everything Google says at face value, but looking at how much Google has grown j15 years, most likely 100% (not provided) is privacy issues.

Google’s a big ass company. They’ve grown so much, so fast, in an industry so new that we don’t really know how to regulate it (no one is advocating government regulation). The standard monopoly and anti-trust laws don’t apply. But what Google does have is data. And contrary to what people have heard, Google’s actual mission statement is as follows:

To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

There it is; all the information. In all of the world. They have been making good on that mission statement, so much so that we’re starting to wonder how much information is too much for an organization. The NSA spying is the first real outcry that the United States public has had with Google. It’s now in our cultural zeitgeist. But Google has been fighting anti-trust, monopoly, and privacy suits in the EU for most of the past two decades.

Since 2010, Google has been making concessions because of an EU Antitrust case.

And they’re staring down numerous privacy lawsuits continuously.

In 2009 Google Analytics was banned in Germany, which was finally lifted in 2011 I was hoping there would be some connection between Johannes Caspar, the guy pushing for the Google Analytics ban, and BMW in some kind of reprisal from when Google dropped BMW.de from its index in 2006  (there wasn’t, and believe me, I looked).

With all the fines and lawsuits and concessions Google is making in Europe, they want to cut that off at the pass before that sentiment reaches US shores. Everything Google is doing right now, the 100% (not provided), requiring one AdWords account per email, consolidating Google accounts, all of this is being done to make sure that by the time American politicians decide to turn against Google, they’ll have the answers already in place.

There’s a smattering of anti-Google sentiment around these parts, but our Government hasn’t really gone after them like the EU has. Google is still considered the best place to work in 2013. And in 2012. And in 2008. And in 2007.

Google stands to lose too much if the full weight of the US government decides to poop their privacy party. Yes, Google is doing this for privacy reasons, and they’re doing it out of their own best interests. They don’t need the same headache twice. But there is no pleasing everyone, even the privacy hawks that wanted this in the first place.

23 Sep
2013

Google Provides Nothing! What to do Now!

There’s huge news coming out of Mt View, CA causing an uproar in the Internet Marketing and Analytics Industries. According to close personal friend Danny Sullivan  (we played Foursquare that one time at SXSWi), Google has made all of their organic searches secure, forcing every search to go from HTTP to HTTPS and increasing the instances of (not provided) in Google Analytics to 100% of traffic from Google. This is going to affect everyone from SiteCatalyst and Coremetrics. This will not just be a Google Analytics problem. Even Premium Google Analytics is going to lose this keyword data. There was no official announcement, but it seems like (not provided) is going to be the new normal. I’ll have plenty of thoughts and opinion on this later, but being a Man of Action, I at least want to provide some useful information on how to move forward now that organic keywords from Google will be leaving most reporting.

First Step

Make sure you have a noted event that September 23rd, 2013 is the day (not provided) went to 100% of all organic traffic (incidentally, I’ve done this for my clients already). The reason being is if somehow you’re going to compare some type of keyword data, you’re going to want this when looking back and you see a shift. At least do that first and then you can keep reading.

Taking Our Own Advice

As a practitioner, I’ve spent a good share of time talking people off of the ledge when it comes to keyword specific reporting, as I’m sure many of my colleagues will agree. I’ve had the following exchange verbatim:

Client: “How come I don’t show up for ‘used yellow convertible buffalo new york?”

Me: “Do you have a yellow convertible on the lot?”

Client: “No, but that’s not the point!”

At some point we have all had a similar conversation in the space with the answer being that a specific keyword isn’t important; focus on this over here. It’s especially bad with clients who know SEO as a buzz term expect to be number one for a generic keyword. We have all had to reel back in a client who was upset they weren’t number one for every Google search. And we all came back with roughly the same answer: “focus on the aggregate, not the individual keywords.” Just because keywords have gone away doesn’t mean we stop monitoring the incoming traffic. Traffic is still going to come from Google. The actual landing page from Organic search is going to become more important.

Even within a custom report, we’re going to be able to find the entrances, the goals completed, and page value, all from the content. Google has always been about content, not keywords.

With deference to Avinash Kaushik, who shares a similar report, here’s an Organic Landing Page Custom Report to get you started. I’ve added the conversion rates and applied a filter to only include Organic traffic. I also removed the keyword dimension (duh) and replaced it with source.

Still Need Keywords

Keywords might still be a signal to look at for over all website health, and they aren’t completely going away. Link your Google Webmaster Tools account to Google Analytics, and the keyword data stored there will be imported into GA. There’s even this whole tab in Google Analytics called Search Engine Optimization.

Queries_-_Google_Analytics-5

It’s not going to be the most up-to-date, as it doesn’t contain any data from the past two days. But you can still see which keywords are providing traffic and even the rankings and click through rates for the organic keywords. The Webmaster Tools report is in its own silo though and they don’t interact with any of the other reports in GA. Webmaster Tools reports cannot be customized or have advanced segments applied to them. But if worse comes to worse, and you need to ween yourself off of keywords completely, Webmaster Tools can be used here.

Ranking Signal Changed

The industry echo chamber for years has said “Content is King” so much that people got sick of saying it. It’s not as cool as saying “SEO is Dead” or “Data is the New Oil.” But the thing is, the better content will be promoted on it’s own. For years we were able to say “the authority on this subject over here is the one I’m hyper linking to,” and now that’s changing. The easiest way to share content is to like it, tweet it, plus one it, pin it. Your social interaction reports are going to become much more important. No one has come out and said point blank that the more plus ones a page gets, the higher it is going to rank (they’ve tried).  It does stand to reason though that the type of content that would be shared socially would also lend it self to higher rankings. The users aren’t sharing keywords, they’re sharing what’s on the page. Ask yourself honestly, is this content good enough that people would want to share it? You might be in an industry that doesn’t lend itself to social network activity. In that case, some creativity is going to be required. What would make compelling content?

I’ll have more later about the impacts of 100% (not provided), and my own opinions on it (like you asked) later in the week. But I at least wanted to share some basic quick things to get people pointed in a good direction. We have to live with the reality of the situation and work within new parameters. Obsessing over the change won’t help, but these actions will provide a quick start to getting back to web analysis.

 

19 Sep
2013

Action Items

I’m trying to do more with this blog, and I had the idea for several series of content to put up on here, which traverse the spectrum from Web Analytics, SEO, and my opinions on tech and where the industry might be going (there’s probably going to be plenty of Pro Wrestling and Doctor Who references as well). There are going to be three series that I’ll be trying to regularly update; “trying” being the very operative word. It’s tough running a one-man-band; ask Heath Slater.

And while the iron is hot, I suppose I need to add a bit more content to the blog of action. There are a couple of projects I’m working on that may be interesting to readers. Mainly, I’m interested in documenting my experiences in the industry and sharing opinions of the Analytics industry as well as the tech industry in general. Mostly though, these postings will be for my own entertainment just because I want to write about them which is as good an excuse as any.

SEO Project

One thing I’d like to keep updated is my progress on a client that has been hit by each and every Google algorithm update in recent memory. Panda, Penguin, Penguin 2.0, the whole menagerie has come to take bites from this client in the hearing health services industry. I haven’t been up to speed on my SEO chops in a few years as I began to specialize in Analytics and Data, but both Ryan Pryor and I are devising plans to help improve organic rankings and more importantly relevant traffic to our mutual clients. This will be a series of steps that we are taking. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to leave comments on the respective articles.

Sports in the Interactive Era

I’m a huge sports fan. Not huge enough to call up the local sports-talk radio shows, but I follow it pretty well. I did stop entering fantasy football leagues, but I tell myself that since I had finally won that I might as well stay the retired champion of the fantasy world. As a fan of tech, I’m interested in how we consume sports and how this might change now that the internet allows us to consume media, including live sports. I had intended this series to be about cutting the cable cord and the options sports fans had to still watch their favorite teams, but I the more I wrote about it, I got sidetracked about how much American sports culture changed from the zenith of radio when Baseball, Boxing, and Horse Racing were the three biggest sports, how that changed to Football, Basketball and Baseball in the TV era, and if the internet will disrupt the current Big Three and what sports could potentially supplant one or all of the triumvirate.

This will be a multi-part series, so if you’re interested in sports and tech, this might be an interesting series to follow.

Miscellaneous Items

When industry news strikes, or I find something in one of my clients, I’ll continue to share those stories and updates as well. As always on all the articles, all opinion and speculation is completely my own.

6 Sep
2013

MSN Crawler: It’s Totes Not Click-Fraud!

Man, what a difference a week makes.

To recap my last post, it still stands that everyone should go ahead and apply the Google Analytics filter I created to filter out the MSN bot from last time. Do this especially if you’re running Bing Ads. It still needs to be set up right now, because while I have an official explanation for it, there isn’t, at present a fix in Google Analytics.

Apply this Filterv! Or Don't. Whatevs.

That’s the one that filters out traffic from the MSN bot. Doing this now will at least make sure that the traffic isn’t being counted while fixes are in place.

And onto the new update. Apparently making assertions that there was traffic from Bing Ads that could may be Click Fraud is a way to get noticed. But, as one who suffers from Only Child Syndrome (OCS), the distinction between good attention and bad attention gets muddled when any old attention will do. I did get a nice letter from the good people over at Bing Ads, and they assured me that the activity being captured by Google Analytics from the MSN was not click-fraud, as I had stated.

With permission, here is a portion of the email:

What you are describing in your post is the result of an increase in our usage of the Bing Preview Bot.   While you might be seeing this as an increase in traffic, we certainly don’t charge for any resulting clicks.  Your assertion that this is click fraud is inaccurate.

Good to know.

In my defense (as one afflicted with OCS, nothing is ever my fault) I brought up click fraud only because the explanation given to me by an agency who specializes in PPC campaigns about solving the issue was tantamount to “put more money into the account and that fixes it.” It’s an explanation that I would not accept, and concocted a scenario that said if that is the best explanation then the traffic is costing the the clients of that agency money.

Alas, I reiterate: the traffic coming from the network domain MSN.com is not click fraud. No one is being charged a cent for that type of traffic.

 It’s just going to eff up Google Analytics reports if you haven’t already applied the aforementioned filter.

I do want to point out that the guys at Bing Ads have been proactive about the use of the Bing Preview Bot. Again, reprinting with permission:

In compliance with the IAB Click Measurement guidelines (link), we self-report the user agent string, so that it can be consumed in black lists for filtration. The precise user agent string is:  Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64) AppleWebKit/534+ (KHTML, like Gecko) BingPreview/1.0b

I have also been assured they have reported the issue to Google as well, so a fix is imminent but not yet active and nor do I have a timeline.

I would be interested to see if paid analytics software like SiteCatalyst and Coremetrics are reporting similar issues though. Unfortunately, I don’t have any clients using paid solutions and Bing Ads. My guess is mostly likely not, but if it can show up in GA why wouldn’t it show up on any tool using javascript page tagging? If anyone has seen anything in SiteCatalyst or Coremetrics or something, reach out to me here or over email.
22 Aug
2013

Update: Bing Ads Crawler Interfering with Google Analytics: Possible Click-fraud?

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