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The hidden value of Google (not provided) for SEO

A few times yesterday, on Search Engine Watch and MediaPost, the discussion of Google Encrypted and the subsequent loss of keyword data sparked up. In those, I mentioned that we actually gained something. Something pretty interesting and potentially actionable.

Although it might just seem like a DUH moment by the end of this ride… it’s apparently gone unnoticed by some. Walk with me…

Benefits of Google (not provided)

Closes a door, opens a window and all that…

Since I am up to my as…oh right, wrong blog. Since I am busy as a beaver. No wait, that might not be taken well either (too Canadian, lol). Dammit. Since I have lot’s left to do today, let me try and keep this as simple as possible.

  • What did we gain? – (not provided) data.
  • What is that? – people that are logged into Google.
  • What can we do with that? – target personalized elements.

Over the years when the conversations came up in SEO circles, about what can be or should be done to make the most of search personalization, one problem was constant; we don’t know how many people are actually logged into Google.

Well guess what my fine followers of a feline obsessed Googler; we’re a lot closer.

In talking with our community members we watched the (not provided) go from 1-4% upwards of 20%+ as it took hold. If you have a domain doing 1 million referrers a month, that 20% is a considerable number.

Now we must see the opportunity.

What are personalized elements?

Now that we have a sense of how much of the traffic has the potential for personalization, we can look at where the website can best increase visibility given existing or potential assets. But what are personalized elements?

  • Behavioural ““ this is your standard flavour of personalization based on implicit/explicit feedback, search history and so on.
  • Social Graph ““ these are how your entities are connected, represented and interacting on the web.
  • Localization ““ related to any potential geo-targeting that some query spaces are sensitive to.

I’d advise reading my SEW article; Search Personalization & the User Experience ““ I get into these parts on a much larger scale.

3 levels of search personalization

Using (not provided) for good not Evil

Hopefully so far you’re starting to catch on here. Right? Good. SEOs just love their social media. But when does it make sense to do it for SEO purposes? Looking at the (not provided) data can give us a great starting point for aligning SEO strategies and social.

You can plan where to attack. Remember, those that bitched about the rise of universal SERPs also missed the fact that it was a train ride to the front page. The QDF? Same thing. The rise of personalization in search is just another curve in the river.

Take it for what it is

And so my friends… don’t always go freaking out each time Google changes something. It won’t do you a damned bit of good. What you need to be doing is looking at the new landscape and where your (and your clients) place in it is.

“Muddy water, let stand becomes clear.” – Lao Tzu

Always keep an open mind and seek out all sides of a story. Every little change means an adaptation to how we do this thing of ours. Those that adapt the best, will survive.


Sorry on my bonky mood… running ragged. I just felt I had to put this out there… as you were.



  1. Ralf January 13, 2012

    good article. one of the best statements concerning SEO is “SEO will never die with innovation. If someone invents a new hamburger, McDonald wont get broke…”

  2. SNCadmin January 13, 2012

    thanks Ralf… as long as search evolves, so to must SEO. I tend not to get worked up about changes these days, just roll with the punches.

  3. Gus January 15, 2012

    Totally agree Dave!… I thought I was alone on this one… 😉
    Having the (not provided) help a bit to reduce “noise” in keyword analysis!


  4. Ralph Miller January 19, 2012

    A lot of people get worked up about changes like these when they are trying too much to game Google’s results.

    What you have to ask yourself is, if I’m providing value, and targeting my audience correctly with information that’s relevant to their needs, why should I care what Google does with their data or their algorithm changes?

    IMHO, people need to stop chasing Google and start listening to their customers/clients. When you do that, Google follows, every time.

  5. SNCadmin January 21, 2012

    @Gus – I’ve actually been working more on it in GA and have it down to the point we can fairly accurately tell what KWs they might have used. So, now I have the added data of what peeps logged in to Gooogle do, in comparison with regular search referred visitors. Kinda liking it tbh.

    @Ralph at the end of the day it should always be about the users, fer sure. that being said, in the SEO world we’d often wondered what levels of personalization was out there, now we know.

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