Mixed reaction to change
A change to Google Analytics means that SEO practitioners will no longer be able to identify keywords searched for by users who are signed into Google.
The move has caused consternation in some quarters and a more relaxed reaction in others, with a debate emerging about its likely impact on businesses specialising in search engine optimisation.
Google Analytics stated via its blog that all SEO traffic will still be measured and the vast majority of data collected will still be visible. However, it will no longer be possible to see exactly which search terms were used by signed-in Google members.
The company has cited online privacy as the main reason for the change.
"As search becomes an increasingly customised experience, [...] we believe that protecting these personalised search results is important," said Amy Chang of Google Analytics.
Most data still available
"When a signed in user visits your site from an organic Google search, [Analytics] will continue to recognise the visit as Google 'organic' search, but will no longer report the query terms that the user searched."
Chang added: "Keep in mind that the change will affect only a minority of your traffic. You will continue to see aggregate query data with no change, including visits from users who aren't signed in."
Nevertheless, there have been furious reactions from some industry commentators.
"This is what I call hypocrisy at work," said Joost de Valk, on SEO Book. "Google cares about your privacy, unless they make money on you, then they don't. The fact is that due to this change, AdWords gets favoured over organic results."
Another popular opinion, however, is that it is too early to tell what the full consequences of the change will be.
Daniel Nolan, general manager of theEword, said: "It is inevitable that some SEO companies are concerned by this, as essentially there will be less information available. But as it is only one section of data, a 'wait and see' approach is probably best."