I’d say I started noticing a change in the keyword stats reported on my websites about six months or so ago. Instead of seeing all of the keywords and search terms people used to arrive at my websites, most of the search terms were showing up as “Unknown search terms” in my WordPress Jetpack stats plugin and “(not provided)” in Google Analytics.
Apparently this is all due to a number of changes with Google. As Google pushes more people to be logged in or stay logged in to their Google, Gmail, or Google plus accounts, the more their searches will be done over SSL. This has the “side effect” of making their searches opaque to website owners. However, that same data is of course available to Google themselves. I say “side effect” because I’m not so sure this is unintended, rather than one of their actual goals.
Why then do I accuse Google of breaking their social contract? Here I am, an owner of multiple domains who has been running Google Analytics tracking bugs in all of my sites since their various inceptions. The entire point of doing so is that I might be able to better understand the search terms and patterns of people coming to my sites, with an eye towards improving traffic. In exchange literally allowing Google to insert code inside my websites, they were supposed to help with these insights. Insights they are no longer providing.
I’m not so naive as to think Google ever promised or contracted to provide this information to me. I’ve never read their Terms of Service and never plan to. When every piece of software includes click-shrink-wrapped terms of service, it’s impossible read, comprehend, or provide knowing consent to these things. All I can go on here is that I’ve continued to let Google inside my websites – and they’re not giving me the very thing I had been lead to believe would be provided in exchange.
That said, Google Webmaster Tools is still pretty useful.