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What Google Knows & The War Against SEOs

I don’t know how many marketers know about Google Think.

Essentially, Google Think is the place where digital marketers can pick/pull consumer data insights from Google’s marketing research that spans across every major industry. It’s really one of those gems that once you stumble across, you’ll wonder how you were doing business without it.

seos under attack

It’s jam-packed with tons of great deck-stuffers and great consumer insights. All gushing aside, it’s what Google knows about all of us as digital shoppers and consumers: how we behave, what digital channels we use when we’re purchasing, and which digital channels are most influential in the purchase journey.

What Google Knows About You and Me

This brings me to a piece of research on Google Think about the online purchase journey of consumers. The Consumer Journey to Online Purchase breaks down what Google knows about what digital channels are touched in the purchase journey, and how they “assist” or “drive” the purchase.

Look at the following chart from this research:

google purchase journey

What you’ll notice is that outside of direct traffic to a website, organic search is the next best interaction, and helps to drive purchase. Across all industries in the United States, organic search is the second best interaction to driving consumers to purchase. In fact, organic search is the second best interaction in every country studied except Canada where it is a close third.

Bottom line: Google knows two things: one, organic drives consumer interaction on their search engine, and two, that organic search data is incredibly valuable. And if you can control this data, from organic visits to organic keywords, then you control the interaction.

Google’s War Against SEOs

If you’ve been paying attention the last couple years, you may have noticed that organic data points from Google have been steadily shrinking. Evaporating is the better word.

In December of 2012, I wrote The War on Organic Data which details out some of the major and not-so-major assaults on organic data by Google since 2010. I also predicted that by the end of this year organic data would be reduced to nothing. So much so that whatever data you do receive will virtually be non-representative of all traffic sources and consumer behaviors/trends. So far, so good.

Make no mistake, the war against SEOs is alive and well.

In mid-April this year, Google pulled the rug out on another organic source: related searches, as noted by AJ Kohn in Google Removes Related Searches. That’s another large avenue of keyword research and temporal/semantic keyword analysis.

Bottom-line: Google is slowly but surely taking away the insights as to how it thinks. That’s why related searches were important, and why predictive is a function of consumer mindshare.

That is to say how consumers view the topic/query and not how Google considers the pieces to be related. Sure, the related searches are at the bottom, but that’s for larger, top-of-the-funnel queries. You can’t get that information for long-tail queries anymore.

Where’s It All Going?

Maybe it’s all a conspiracy. I’m definitely not ruling it out at this point. “Not Provided” is growing larger and larger every day; one of my clients has 60% not provided. 60%! What are you supposed to do with that?

Rank position data is all but obliterated, unless you do it manually. And, even then, there’s no such thing as a truly clean SERP these days. There’s always a taint on it from IP. They removed WonderWheel, they’ve removed Related Searches.

And, while Google Webmaster Tools is a great resource for strengthening up your technical SEO, the supposed organic keyword value is garbage. 90 days worth of impressions, which is beyond worthless (who really cares how many times your site was displayed in the SERPs), CTR, clicks, and average position? Seems like placation really, a gesture to say, “see, we are on the side of webmasters and SEOs”.

That data is not all that helpful, to be honest. It seems as though Google deliberately pushes marketers away from organic search, even though they know outside of a direct visit to website, it is the most powerful interaction to purchase. Why is that? I wish I had an answer.

The only idea I have, that makes even a little sense, is to get everyone to use AdWords in some capacity. That is free-flowing, non-restricted data. “Not Provided” doesn’t live there.

If Google continues to restrict and remove organic data and organic temporal and semantic opportunities, SEOs will be forced to start “purchasing” this data back.I’m sure many of you already are, and if you’re not, chances are you soon will be.

Pretty soon all SEOs are going to have is a handful of keywords that haven’t been redacted due to “privacy”, no way to research anything outside of “top-of-the-funnel” terms, and Google+ Platform that wants to be everything to everyone. Ugh. I don’t know about you, but it seems like a giant slap in the face for Google to put this information out there.

They simply admit it: we know organic matters to consumers and it’s how their purchasing. Well, great, thanks for that. SEOs didn’t need a chart to tell us that. And, for all that importance, they’ve taken away marketers ability to research and target “organic” results. Seems like a bit of talking out of both sides of your mouth guys, no?

You have ambassadors like Matt who are there to extend the olive branch and “give heads up” about major algorithm shifts; however, in the same breath, while Matt’s talking his talk, the engineers walk behind the curtain and pull the plug on another important piece of data. Or they turn the dial up on “privacy” and black box even more data.

Google’s war on SEOs is alive and well folks.

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