Google Turning the Lights Out on Organic Data – Opinion by Tony Verre

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News – Google, in an effort to secure better user privacy, is effectively turning the lights out on signed-in Google Account users in Google Analytics as well as other analytics packages. And, true to Google nature, this change doesn’t affect Paid Search, just organic.

The Double Standard

Google makes the double standard seem easy. Paid search (PPC) is also personalized to the user’s search history and IP address. But, true to Google’s nature, this gets to slide through the gates of “privacy”. I’ll let you connect the dots Aaron Wall-style. You don’t have to look too hard to see this move places PPC data on a pedestal; it’s unfiltered by privacy now and you get true conversion data from them.

What This Means to SEOs and Online Marketers

While I don’t have the percentage of users that query while signed in, it’s fairly safe to assume that a good chunk of users do travel from, say, Gmail to Google to query. And any other host of Google applications to Google. And when that happens, it’s light’s out on organic search data. You don’t get the referring keyword/keyword phrases used to find your site, your products, and your services. *BLINK*. Gone. As if it never happened.

Certainly, as the post mentions, you’ll get your visitation data, your segment data. However, here is the big piece: when it’s a signed in visit (organically), everything goes bye-bye, including conversion data. So if everyone who visits your site isn’t signed, then your data should remain unaffected by this. But, if even one person visits your site signed into their account, the keyword(s) and conversion(s) are not associated.

Harder to Craft Strategy Now?

I would say so. A lot of SEOs use the organic keyword data and conversion data to determine if a given strategy is working, and to determine if progress on that strategy is being achieved. It helps us establish a bottom-line assessment. Not only does it hurt search marketers, it hurts companies and businesses on every level (big and small). This change is going to make it harder to craft precision strategy on an organic level because the data is skewed and it could be harder to determine whether or not your strategic efforts were successful.

It doesn’t put us back to the Stone Age, so let’s be real about that, but it puts a pretty big crimp in data-backed strategy.
Moreover, those who used analytics just to surmise if people/consumers and how people/consumers found them for something other than BRAND terms, just got a punch in the face [read Mom and Pop shops who can’t afford online marketing services and help]. The web might be a key component to survival for them, and taking away accurate data in the name of faux-privacy is a pretty big deal.

Where to Go from Here?

Like Panda, we are all going to have to see how this shakes out. We will have to see how the data is affected by this change. It doesn’t appear to have been implemented yet, testing out being signed in to my account. But, when it does hit, everyone is going to have to take a deep breath, step back, and watch it for a couple days.

Tony Verre
Tony Verre is the CEO of Silver Arc Search Marketing and writes their official blog The Milwaukee SEO. He has worked in online marketing, search... Read Full Bio
Tony Verre
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  • Scott Polk

    Good points Tony … for me this is the “slippery slope”. This data is invaluable. It may simply be logged in user now, but what if that changes?

  • Aaron Bradley

    I think you hit the nail on the head concerning conversions. It’s already difficult enough trying to establish baseline conversion rates from organic search keywords and then work on improving them, because of the relative paucity of data involved (particularly as it pertains to long tail keywords). This will make a difficult situation even worse.

    Of course, one could always purchase the same target keywords on AdWords and … er, wait, that costs money!

    Whatever Google’s “true” reason behind this move, by their own measure it can’t actually be privacy or, as you say, PPC keyword data would also be excluded. Kind of an ironic twist in that one usually pays extra for additional privacy (an unlisted phone number, proxy domain registration, etc.), yet here those generating Google and (potentially) vendor revenue are exposed more, not less. But of course at the end of the day the advertisers are getting the data they need.

  • Peter Jordan

    It really feels like faux privacy. Google still has the data.

    But the other important point is the dis benefit to consumers. Unless we know what people are searching for we can’t target landing pages for findability. And it goes beyond just SEO but to the loss of important signals for content and product development.

  • Charlie

    Just like you said Tony: this is something that is going to change our organic SEO analysis & reporting, instead the advertisers on Google AdWords.

    Maybe a big piece of the long-tail effect was based in data coming from people sign in on their Google Accounts. So, different organic results – from user’s historical data- plus this change will mean more detail analysis to find out how and what people are REALLY searching.

    Is Google really taking care about user privacy or it´s something else behind?

  • Joe

    Wait, I’m confused…Google is blocking data from *all* users signed into Google or blocking data from those who are signed into Google *and* browsing securely (https)?

  • mike vallano

    Great points about the double standard.

    This will definitely make reporting a challenge, especially as we report on visits and conversions by organic keyword. The numbers will go down now, and clients will assume it’s our fault.

    Ah, the ever-changing world of SEO.

  • Harpy´s Story

    Time for all of us to “occupy” the internet? Could we club together and make and market a better search engine? If not….we will just have to stomach the change….

    • Tony Verre


      Indeed, this is a slippery slope. I think Google played their hand with this move; privacy is a secondary or tertiary concern at best, though it’s the best foot-forward to “not be evil”, because, hey, we’re protecting the little guy. Except, of course, for our advertisers. Then, they’ve paid for the privilege to see, use, and leverage that data. As business models go: smart. They’ve created more exclusivity in a single stroke.

      And that’s their hand, a giant pay-to-play model under the guise of privacy. I would not be surprised to see this get slipperier in the next 6 months to a year. In our line of business, data is power. He who holds the data holds the power (and the money, as it were)

      Conversions is the part that worries me the most. Losing that data attached to organic keyword/phrases is huge. I’m not going to blow this out of proportion, not until I see just how much the data is crippled by this; however, it a bold statement from Google and as I mentioned above, a sign of where this is likely headed.


      Before I jump off the cliff, I’m going to see what happens with the data. But, if it’s as bad as we think it will be, then, yes, reporting and mining and analyzing are going to have to change. There’s just no way around that. Or, perhaps, on the sunny-side, it’ll be so minimal that no one will notice and it won’t alter things too much. As I said above, I think “privacy” is the huge facade here, and what is really behind this is a way to build up data research and access exclusivity. Google may not understand platforms, (

  • Nick

    Sure it will have an impact. Although I think we SEO folk over estimate the amount of people with Google accounts that would do a signed in search, click a listing and make a purchase. All depends on if you have big high end clients I guess that have the traffic to make this statistically significant.

  • ChrisCD

    Is using the NoSSLSearch an option? Can it be done for individual sites or does your host have to do it?

    “To utilize the NoSSLSearch option for your network, please configure the DNS entry for

  • stu morris

    It’s clear Google is trying to maximize it’s bottom line by making organic’s value seem depreciated. It again goes back to if you want to play in Google’s sandbox, you need to utilize all of it’s Concepts. But for me as with everything Google the last 8 years just play it out. Every month we hear “it’s the end of SEO (Organic)” was that way with Universal, personal, suggested, caffeine, and on and on from the Fla update to now. Were still here!

  • Doc Sheldon

    No doubt, this will make it a lot harder for those of us in the business of optimizing for organic. And I can’t see that a claim of protecting peoples’ privacy holds any water, when the data is only protected from those that aren’t willing to pay for it.

    But I listened to some convincing arguments this morning in a chat that make me think that this may be a preemptive move on Google’s part, with some justification, and that any competitive advantage they may gain was just coincidental.

    Wait and see seems like a good plan, for now.

  • Rachel Howe

    As if SEO’s don’t have it hard enough communicating the ROI from their efforts, this shotty move by Google has made it that much harder. And so much for Google caring about “making it easier” for SMB’s.

    Great post Tony.

  • Laurence O’Toole

    Re: “We will have to see how the data is affected by this change”

    Tony – we’ve just done some analysis and the results so far (on our blog) are that the average number of (not provided) queries expressed as a percentage of organic keyword visits was 2.82%. This is across a sample of 140 websites analysed (this research base will grow by the day) since 18th October to date.

    • Tony Verre


      Wow, thanks for the update! I have to be honest and say that’s a lot smaller than I expected. Nearly 3% across 140 sites. I’m assuming that’s a sampling from a variety of verticals (i.e. B2C, B2B, Informational/Blog sites)?

      It still stings a bit, and I’m still on the “every site will be different” train, but my heart rate has slowed down a bit since reading this. I’ll be sure to check out the full post today!

      • Laurence O’Toole

        OK…just before your resting heart rate settles…the biggest we’ve seen so far is 33.33% but the site had too few visits to be significant. But we have also seen a site with 325 of 1373 – 23.67% of visits affected!

  • Website Design

    Maybe this is a lead in to sell their Analytics Premium. Maybe that’s the only place that will end up showing this data. Another pay-to-play move.

  • Peter Buhagar

    Hello Mr. Verre,

    Please inform me as to whether Google’s new encrypted searching measures will affect keyword popularity data that is presented in Google Adwords.


  • Ani Lopez

    After 4 days “Turning the Lights Out on Organic Data” I only see 0.82% average of visits from organic traffic with keywords missed. Numbers here:

  • Ani Lopez

    oops! URL disappeared, anyway, copy/paste from my article
    – Highest percentage observed is 1.75%
    – Lowest percentage 0.18%
    – Average 0.82%

    – Only 35% of sites are above 1.0% of non provided keywords
    – 40% of sites are between 0.5% and 1.0%
    – 25% of sites are below 0.5%

    Aren’t we exaggerating a bit?