The Paid Keywords Not Provided Effect? What Effect??

Last week, search marketers everywhere were put into a tizzy when previous reports of Google possibly putting a lock-down on paid search keywords and giving them the “not provided” treatment like organic search reemerged.

According to many, it would mean a dramatic shift in the way SEM operated. Things would be changin’ ’round these parts. Queue REM’s “End of the World” and such.

Except, it wasn’t. And, everything is gonna be  just fine.

Yes, Google did officially announce paid search would be covered under SSL encryption. In laymen’s terms, Google would remove the actual searched keyword from the URL string, meaning this would no longer be passed along in the referral URL to third-party analytics platforms or website logs (OK, maybe that wasn’t quite “laymen’s” terms).

But, what does that mean for paid search analysts?

Uh, nothing.

Nothing. The search query report in AdWords itself– still functional. From what I’ve seen since this change went into effect, so are paid keywords in Google Analytics. Third-party search marketing platforms, like Kenshoo? Unaffected. Basically, unless you’re sitting there analyzing website logs or using a third-party analytics platform, you won’t notice a damn thing.

And, turns out, that’s likely the point.

Many in the industry, including myself, are viewing this more as a “PR move” for Google; one that likely didn’t go anywhere near how the company planned. While nothing major actually changed for those of us in search marketing, the folks at Big G certainly made some noise last week, and not just amongst people in the search world. But, that contrived effort probably had zero impact on how regular users view their own privacy in the search engine; which, apparently, was the result they were aiming for.

I guess, time will tell. Potentially, there will be some long-term impact to SEM that I’m just missing right now. Perhaps, paid keywords will be removed from Google Analytics eventually. For those of us who rely heavily on AdWords itself, though, all this announcement did is give us something else to write about. So, there’s that.