What would Spring be without an internet abuzz with rumors and speculations about the newest disaster to hit search engine marketing and its valiant adherents? Restful, that’s what.
Earlier this month reports and rumors began to circulate, exclaiming that search query data for paid search was dead. Google was going to block access to paid search keyword data, and would cease to supply third parties with with that same data.
Understandably, this news created quite a stir among search engine marketers who are, it must be said, ever ready to jump to conclusions and overreact. But take a deep breath, and don’t panic. Paid search query data is not really dead, it has only undergone a few relatively small changes.
The Dreaded Google Announcement
On April 9th, Paul Feng (Google’s Product Management Director for AdWords) took to Google’s Ads Developer Blog to announce a change to the security features for paid search query data. It read, in part:
Today, we are extending our efforts to keep search secure by removing the query from the referrer on ad clicks originating from SSL searches on Google.com.
This led many people to speculate that paid search query data was going the way of organic search data, and so would no longer be available to search marketers through Google Webmaster Tools or Google AdWords. That one sentence was all it took for panic to set in. But Feng went on to say:
Advertisers will continue to have access to useful data to optimize and improve their campaigns and landing pages. For example, you can access detailed information in the AdWords search terms report and the GWT search queries report.
Clearly, Feng’s announcement indicates that, while Google is reinforcing its commitment to search security, it is in no way eliminating all access to paid search query data.
So Just What Has Changed?
The major change in paid search query data is the way in which the searcher’s keyword information will be reported to users. Previously, when someone surfing the web clicked on an AdWords advertisement, the search term that originally led to the ad would appear in the referring URL. This will no longer be the case. But again, don’t panic. While this information will no longer be available in Google Analytics, it can still found in Google’s AdWords Search Terms Report.
Accessing Your Search Query Data
Basically, these changes will primarily effect those marketers using a log file analyzer or other analytics tool to parse their search query data from a referring URL. From now on, when you want to access your paid search query data you will have to refer to Google AdWords, or to a third party PPC management platform that uses the AdWords API. Marketers subscribing to pay per click platforms like WordStream, Kenshoo, or Acquiso will be able to access the search query data just as before.
But I Really Like My Referring URLs
If you really love those referring URLs, ValueTrack can get you pretty close to your comfort zone. ValueTrack parameters will dynamically populate the keyword into the destination URL, or adurl. The adurl isn’t encrypted, so you will still be able to scrape keyword data from the referring URL.
However, take note that ValueTrack allows you to append the keyword that triggered your account, which is not the same as the keyword that triggered the paid advertisement. That being said, if you really love a referring URL, and you are using match types like Phrase and Exact Match, ValueTrack can get you pretty close to the data you want.
So, the death of paid search query data has been greatly exaggerated. While some changes have been made to the way data is reported, most of the information we need as search engine marketers remains easily accessible. AdWords campaigns may need to be adjusted somewhat, but the changes are minimal. You can still find your search query data in AdWords, and you can still use the AdWords tracking code to track conversions. If you are uncomfortable leaving the referring URL model behind, ValueTrack can help you bridge the gap.
So, in summary, the digital marketing world didn’t end on April 9th, and Spring might just turn out to be restful after all. Is paid traffic a channel in your internet marketing campaigns? It should be. Feel free to comment below or reach out with any questions.