Google got us hooked on Crack Codecaine and now it’s gonna make us pay

That’s a rather sensationalist title I know but you have to do something to make content stand out in this SEO/SEM/PR/Social Media jungle right? It’s also partly down to the fact that I’ve been gorging on episodes of the fantastic “Breaking Bad” TV series this week which has influenced my take on some of Google’s recent headline changes.

Breaking Bad

There have been a couple of Google announcements recently that have ruffled some feathers within the search marketing community.

Encryption of organic keyword search data for logged in users which Google is proclaiming as a move to protect user privacy.

The first announcement has come as quite a blow to the search engine optimisers amongst us. The net result of the announcement is that anyone logged in to a Google account when searching won’t pass any keyword information to analytics programs because the data will be encrypted. They’ll still show as a hit but the all-important info of what they searched for to arrive won’t be made known and will instead just show as “not provided”. Google suggests that it’ll account for about 9.9% of organic search data although that number is likely to increase if we see Google+ become the social network of choice over Facebook.

Apart from the obvious blow to the online marketing world from a reporting perspective, I mean it’s already difficult to justify the value of good on-going SEO work without losing a big chunk of supporting data right?, there’s a couple of other issues with Google justification of this change that has got peoples backs up.

  1. Awords users will still be able to see this data. So not so much in the interest of user privacy but more like a pay-per-view model.
  2. Users not logged won’t have that same encryption. So the privacy of non-Google account holders doesn’t seem to matter.

There’s all sorts of theories being thrown around about what they’re up to (perhaps there’s genuinely nothing more to it than they suggest) like this epiphany from +Jenn Mathews where she considers it might just be Google trying to track the referrals to its own Google+ asset (I’m not convinced). It also appears to have caused some unusual affects as reported by @AlexMoss from Pleer.

My own take on it is I’m predicting that reporting on encrypted keyword searches will become a feature of the Google Analytics Premium service.

The Google Analytics free version has become the analytics program of choice for many search marketers and for the majority of sites being tracked there seems to be little reason to start paying for the premium version. Perhaps this would be a reason for people to start paying? They’ve handed out their samples of meth to us in the form of a free Analytics account and now we’ve become dependent they want us to pay for our Skanté (sorry that’s the Breaking Bad thing again).

There’s a petition to show the volume of dissatisfaction over this change available to sign at http://keywordtransparency.com/ which has been put together by @searchmartin if you feel strongly about this.

Introduction of usage limits for the Google Maps API

This more recent announcement has also rubbed a few people up the wrong way. As of October 1st Google announce that they will impose a usage limit on calls to the Google Maps API and sites exceeding those limits will need to either pay for the excess usage or purchase a Maps API Premier License.

For most users the usage limits will be more than enough I suspect with only high volume for-profit sites being affected but is it another indicator that Google is moving its previously free services to a pay to play model?

What next?

Will we see more Google free services move to a premium model now users are dependants?

Will we see Blogger offer an improved paid version? There have certainly been some interesting announcements there like Google+ integration and Dynamic Views that has encouraged a few people to switch back from WordPress.