Still using keywords? You’re already behind.

Most ad agencies are already aware, but just two weeks ago, the website “Not Provided Count” announced that the number of actual keywords being masked is around 74%. A quick check to “Not Provided” on October 1 shows that count has risen to over 80%.

That reporting data is no longer available for internet marketers that track their client’s campaign metrics by hits or visits from a given keyword. This leaves internet marketers blind as to what keywords their clients should actually target. While that may make the internet marketer’s job harder, it certainly isn’t the end all.

What is it that internet marketers really do?

In the early days of search engine optimization, internet marketing was about building links and brining in traffic based on those links. The approach was considered formulaic but effective. SEO was seen as a separate entity in business development; not quite design, not quite programming, and not quite marketing.

Lately, search engines have really turned up their efforts to serve more meaningful information and content. Today, that means SEO specialists and internet marketers are less formulaic and more strategic. They are now inbound marketing. Inbound marketers work in concert with or within a business. The goal for inbound marketers is not how many clicks or visits were created, but the bottom line impact to business revenue. At the end of the day, company heads want to see a positive contribution to overall business growth that can be directly measured by inbound marketing efforts.

Why is Google Making this Change?

Google changes local houston web marketing

Photo by Bytemarks | Flickr

There are numerous industry speculations as to why Google decided to hide valuable keyword metric data to push to a paid platform. It seems to be about personalization to the user making the search or query. For a long time, using formulaic models, spammers and other low quality content were able to take advantage of search engine algorithms.

By taking away the keyword reporting, they are trying to strip away the tools and techniques that some of these spammers were using. Many inbound marketers believe that it is only a matter of time until 100% of the keyword metrics are hidden from everyone’s view (business owner and inbound marketers).

If Not Keywords, What Then?

That is the #1 question right now. The truth is that Google and other major search engines have ramped up efforts to really understand language and local syntax. That effort is to help connect individuals with relevant content in their local areas. That means that odd keyword combinations used in searches like “company glass repair” come out as phrases like “glass repair company in Houston”. Syntactically, this makes much more sense and is most likely a better indicator of what the user was originally searching for. In a nutshell, Google is simultaneously trying to be more accurate and more efficient for the user at the same time.

How do you target phrases?

That is another hard question. You do need target phrases, but at the same time you don’t need to worry about it. Google is starting to understand that “glass company in Houston” is the same as “Houston glass specialist.” When done properly, the same website will rank for both phrases. Hiding phrases is a tactic that will fool any internet marketer who isn’t from the local area or savvy enough to keep up with changes to search metrics.

All is Not Lost

Google gets more accurate with Houston web marketing

Photo by Bytemarks | Flickr

Fortunately, there is still plenty of data from other sources like Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and 3rd party professional tools. Additionally, Google’s Adwords campaign and keyword planner tool offer some limited reporting information that can still be utilized effectively.

Current SEO specialists and internet marketing professionals need to move into the new generation of web and inbound marketing. Utilizing strategies that focus on quality content that organically spread through the local community is going to be one of the few paths to successful business growth. If your SEO or web marketing firm is not performing at the new standards that have already been implemented by search engines, you’re already behind.