What’s the one thing that inbound marketers love more than anything? Data. This is because, unlike many traditional marketing approaches, online marketing results in a lot of useful data being produced. This data is used by marketers to gauge the success of their campaigns, see what works and what doesn’t, and to make whatever changes are necessary. However, Google, which in a lot of ways is the gatekeeper when it comes to online data, has taken a number of steps recently to curb marketer’s access to this data. This has resulted in marketers being in the dark when it comes to their analytics and makes it harder for them to be effective. This raises the question: will marketers push back against the search giant’s efforts to restrict or hide data? Let’s take a look.
Understanding the Problem
Before we talk about potential backlash that Google will face for limiting the data that marketers have access to, let’s take a closer look at what’s causing them so much grief. Over the course of the past year, Google as rolled out a number of separate initiatives that all work to keep some data hidden. Here are the biggest ones to affect marketers:
Just over a month ago, Google announced that Gmail users will be able to view images in the body of emails. While this is great if you have really compelling images that you are using in your email marketing, it also severely limits email analytics. Basically, since the images that are being added to the emails are being kept on Google’s own servers instead of those of a third party (like MailChimp), the data that is normally provided when someone downloads the image stays with Google, who won’t share it. This leaves marketers in the dark when it comes to the effectiveness of their email marketing, especially when one considers that Gmail is the biggest email provider.
OK, so Google isn’t necessarily hiding PageRank info from marketers, but it hasn’t updated it in a while either, leading to rumors that they may be thinking of getting rid of it entirely. A comment from Matt Cutts, one of Google’s key engineers, stating that PageRank will “start to go away a little bit” has only fanned the flames of these rumors. Chances are that it will continue to exist in some sort of capacity, but it is certainly not going to be as relevant as it used to be. Without any type of replacement, this will mean that marketers will have one less tool to use to determine a websites SEO.
This is easily the biggest and most controversial move by Google. Bit by bit, Google has been transitioning to what is called “secured search,” which basically means that it will now hide how visitors find your website. Instead of being able to see what keywords were commonly used to discover your site, you end up seeing “(not provided).” Obviously this makes it hard for inbound marketers and web designers to make changes to their sites based on web traffic. This move is even more controversial since Google will actually still provide this important information to businesses; it’s just that you have to pay them to do so.
So…Are Marketers Going to Fight Back?
The short answer is no (I apologize for being anti-climactic). There is certainly some grumbling about the changes that Google is making and it is a good bet that some will complain pretty vocally about the changes, but in the end inbound marketers are simply going to have to adapt. Google has stated that when it comes to regulating data, it is doing so to help protect the privacy of those who are use its services. It makes a lot of sense for them to be emphasizing privacy since it is such a hot topic with people these days, especially with the NSA scandal and frequent cyber-attacks dominating the news. It therefore needs to make these changes in order to keep people using it. In the end, I suspect the recent changes will be eventually regarded as good moves for everyone, even if they are sending marketers in a scramble now.
My best recommendation for inbound marketers who are looking to see success with search and anything else Google related is to not fight the change. It’s is a good idea to see what Google is trying to do with search, email, and the rest of its products and to plan accordingly. I have provided some insight into this in a recent blog about taking your marketing beyond 2014, so take a look if you want to know what you can do get ahead of the changes.