This year, online marketers got an October surprise: Google stopped reporting the keywords that brought visitors to their sites, making it nearly impossible to gain the basic keyword data upon which the entire SEO discipline is built.
The characters in the comic Calvin and Hobbes play a game called “Calvinball,” where Calvin keeps making up new rules as the game goes on. Well, this is an example of Google playing Googleball with online marketing, and as far as it’s concerned, marketers are just the imaginary tiger strapped to the search engine and along for the ride.
Google claims the change will provide Google users with better security. I’m sure that sounds great in a press release or in front of a Senate subcomittee panel, but from a marketer’s or site-owner’s point of view, it doesn’t hold water. The keyword data in Google Analytics came through completely anonymous, and all it did was allow some transparency into how your site was being indexed on Google.
The truth is, Google pushes marketers around. The company’s famous core value is “Don’t be evil.” But it has no problem bullying marketers to score points with other audiences.
Cutting off keyword data is only one example of Google’s bullying this year. During the summer, Gmail rolled out a tabbed inbox that minimizes the chances that marketing messages will be read, even by recipients who subscribe to and buy from senders. This has caused email marketers no end of problems, with many reporting a drop in Gmail open rates. Econsultancy rounds up these impacts.
Google and marketing bloggers who follow its actions closely—and have often received specialized training provided by Google—will tell you these changes only impact marketers who don’t “follow the rules.” But why should any marketer have to attend a training session from a vendor to have an email delivered on time, or to see what website visitors are looking for? The rules are designed to the detriment of marketers, and Google changes them on a whim.
It’s all Googleball, and the only way to win is for marketers to stop playing.