It's been a pretty slow couple of weeks with changes to search algorithms but I did come across some information on what has been coined, "Dark Google." It relates to Google searches, analytical data available through Google and your privacy.
About a year ago (October 2011), Google announced that in an effort to shield search information and other private information linked to your Google user account, they would block your information from the domain data when you performed a search and clicked on an organic link. An organic link is created naturally and differ from traffic from referral sources and paid links such as the sponsored ads you see on search engine results pages. For example, right now I am logged into my Google account in order to write this blog posting. If I were to conduct a search without logging out, this search data would be blocked and would appear as "not provided" to the Google Analytical Data for whatever website I visited as a result of that search. Right? Wrong!
The Real Deal
Google decided to make this information available if a user clicked on paid or sponsored ads. This is how Google collects billions of dollars in revenue: through paid ads. It makes business sense to allow advertisers paying for ad space access to this type of search data so they can better target their ads towards a specific audience. But is it ethical to provide this search data for a fee?
Other companies have been forced by shareholders to increase their revenue through paid advertising. Facebook released a Promotions feature a few years back and offered this as a free tool for business page owners. Now, this services costs a fee and is now available to regular users as well. Globally, online advertising revenue hit $17 billion in the first half of 2012. Some project yearly revenue to reach $143 billion by 2017.
The SEO Data
Website publishers have been noticing a very large increase in "not
provided" search data in their Analytics since this initiative took
effect. Most publishers, about 35%, are reporting between 30-50% of
their search terms "not provided." My business website, Web Crawl Consulting,
has 41% of its search terms "not provided." In the SEO reporting
world, this poses a threat to 'business as usual' methods. SEO firms
must utilize multiple reporting tools to gather all pertinent data for
their clients. But SEO isn't all just keywords and phrases. The big picture is how to drive traffic to your website.
From a business standpoint, I get it. As a publicly traded
company, there is much pressure to raise as much revenue as possible to
make shareholders happy. There are over 1 billion users on Facebook and
500 million Google + accounts. It's free to sign up and use most of
the services they provide but at the end of the day, companies have to
turn a profit. They have to get creative in order to meet multiple
goals and some of these goals become intertwined. I think people should be aware of how their information is being shared online. Don't become like South Park's Kyle in "The Human Centipad"