Small businesses that rely on Google’s analytics data to gain customer data will now have a more difficult time doing so. Just a few weeks ago, Google changed to secure search, which will now restrict the data users can gather through Google Analytics. This change will likely have a negative effect on SMB marketing efforts.
Most businesses use the free Google Webmaster Tools to view information on the top search queries during a certain time period. As of now, Webmasters will no longer be able to view the data in real time, so users will not be able to narrow down exactly when a customer found their site, the browser used, nor the exact search terms.
This leaves smaller marketers without an inexpensive, effective method of tracking and measuring the content they post and its success or failure. Although several articles provide new ways to collect this data, or semi-effective workarounds, the fact is that Google didn’t announce this change to its users. According to Danny Sullivan at Marketingland:
Unlike the change two years ago, for logged-in searchers, there was no public blog post about the shift. Google seems to have hoped no one would even notice. That silence has helped fuel speculation that the change was less about protecting privacy and more about protecting Google’s ad business—or that perhaps privacy was a convenient excuse to also boost the ad-side of Google’s interests.
According to Business2Community, Google’s response was:
We want to provide SSL protection to as many users as we can, in as many regions as we can—we added non-signed-in Chrome omnibox searches earlier this year, and more recently other users who aren’t signed in. We’re going to continue expanding our use of SSL in our services because we believe it’s a good thing for users…. The motivation here is not to drive the ads side—it’s for our search users.
The easiest way to gain access to such data is through Google’s AdWords, which businesses are required to pay for. Many smaller businesses can’t afford to pay extra for such tracking. Also, a business would need an ad campaign to submit to its account and it would only see results from the people who clicked through the ad. Not exactly the same way most Webmasters are used to getting important customer data, not to mention, it’s not exactly the same data.
In a later post, I will provide information on some of the other ways small businesses can collect website data on their users.