Recently, we made a significant change to how we report on SEO work.

Before the change, we included a metric in SEO reports called “HVK traffic” – traffic from visitors searching for high value keywords – as a way to gauge how many visits a website was attracting due to SEO efforts. HVK is another way to think about non-branded organic traffic; someone who searches for your services/products but doesn’t search for your business by name is an HVK visitor. These are the keywords the site is optimized for, and the primary goal of SEO is to increase these visits.

Encrypted Search

Unfortunately for marketers and businesses who rely on this data to help optimize their websites for search, Google has been steadily encrypting more and more organic searches – meaning instead of seeing what keywords search visitors used to find your website, you’ll only see “(Not Provided)” in your analytics. As the ClickConsult graph at the right shows, encrypted accounts for around 80% of searches now, and experts are resigned to the reality that soon enough, 100% of organic Google searches will be encrypted. (Note: while keywords from organic searches are increasingly encrypted, Google continues to provide keyword data for AdWords clicks. Whether or not we can conclude that Google is forcing marketers to essentially pay for keyword data is a debate I’ll leave for another time.)

What Now?

Does the end of organic search data from Google spell the end for SEO? Not likely. For a vast number of businesses and organizations, a strong organic search ranking will continue to be an invaluable visibility boost and an extremely powerful inbound lead generator. While the lack of organic search keyword data makes assessing ROI from SEO more challenging, Webmasters can still see how their sites are ranking for targeted keywords – and tying this progress to increases in organic search traffic will be a primary component to gauging results.

Is SEO changing? Absolutely. SEO has changed drastically in the past decade, and it will continue to change as search behavior – and search algorithms – evolve. The loss of search keywords may be a hurdle, but it’s a hurdle that can be cleared by continuing to look forward and by finding new ways to make the best use of available data. 

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