Google is withholding important data but only if you don’t use their advertising system AdWords.
To the right is an Analytics Organic Search Traffic report for a site for September 2013. At nearly 75,000 organic search visitors in a 4 week period the site is doing well, but note that 63% of the search terms or over 47,000 searches have their data masked as (not provided)
So this client cannot see what the majority of their visitors where searching for in Google before they entered their site. Given the critical nature of online exposure, this type of data is as fundamental as a Profit & Loss financial statement to a business.
For the entire existence of the internet up until Nov 2012 it has been possible to see this ‘referer’ data. But with Google’s absolute domination of internet search, they are in a unique position to control what data they share. Worse it seems they will only show this critical data if you are a paying customer with Google.
At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, Google has also been on a vendetta for the last few years to ‘cleanup search’ with their much publicised releases including Panda and Penguin.
As someone inside the SEO industry, the most apparent outcome of Google’s actions is that businesses have invested more significantly in Google’s paid search because SEO results have become ‘less predictable’. Is it just a happy coincidence that Google’s actions has resulted in increasing their own AdWords revenue ?
It is a great concern to all online businesses that Google seems to be using its overwhelming domination of the internet to its own commercial advantage. This behavior is not tolerated in traditional media channels like Print, Television etc where it is regulated and meticulously monitored by Governments.
Maybe its time that Google was similarly monitored and managed.