The Impact of Google Encrypted Search for the B2B Marketer

We have been following the roll out of Google encrypted search and the impact of Google’s decision to block keyword data. Discussions have been started with clients, partners, and colleagues, and it remains to be seen when the general marketing community will take greater notice.

This development is particularly troublesome for B2B internet marketers as we are immersed in the data that impacts lead generation initiatives. Every bit of website traffic information can help.

Google SSL Not Provided Keywords

As information, perspective, and analysis is published, KoMarketing Associates is curating Google encrypted search content in our learning site. We certainly welcome contribution and post/article awareness for this initiative.

Perspective and Summary Points

  • Google is now encrypting searches that logged in users perform, preventing those keywords from showing up in third party reporting tools
  • This change does not impact overall organic search traffic, just specific keyword referral benchmarks
  • Conversion, traffic, and performance benchmarks can still be realized as a whole for SEO campaigns
  • According to Google, less than 10% of organic search traffic will be effected, but this will change from site to site and markets/market demographics.
  • For the majority of our B2B clients, we are consistently finding greater than 10% impact on organic search referral data
  • In my opinion, this change is meant as much, or more, for Google to maintain or increase its competitive advantage with respect to keyword information, in addition to the (implied) protection on user privacy.

Percentage of Keyword Data Impacted by B2B Market Segment

Here is a snapshot of a select group of website keyword traffic data, which illustrates the increase in impact of “not provided” keyword volume over a three week period.

Google Encrypted Search Impact

And another chart illustrating the percentage of websites (client and company) impacted by over 10% in the past three weeks.

Percentage of Sites Impacted over 10% by Google Encrypted Search

The impact of Google encrypted search is being recorded by other agencies as well. Consider the following blog posts and references:

  • Seer Interactive was one of the first to point out that the impact of Google encrypted search was impacting double digit search query percentages.
  • Google’s change has affected HubSpot 5,600+ customers’ organic search traffic to a tune of 11.36% from November 1st through the 9th.
  • Finally, SEOmoz surveyed 60 site owners and found a consistent, higher than single digit percentage impact.

Action Items for B2B Marketers

I wrote two columns on Google Encrypted Search (one on Search Engine Land and another on Search Engine Watch) that provide recommendations for B2B marketers and we are certainly tracking data over time.

As indicated in my Search Engine Watch column, the most immediate action B2B marketers can take is to benchmark performance of keyword search data historically and ongoing, and communicate changes to team members and management.

As KoMarketing Associates moves forward with client reporting, at least in the short-term, three clear segments of keyword data will need to be defined:

  • Branded versus non-branded keyword performance
  • Performance benchmarks associated to “not provided” keyword data

B2B marketers should also consider (if they are not already) additional benchmarks that tie back to the overall internet marketing mix. Those include conversion metrics, traffic from link building initiatives, and new versus returning visits via organic search.

Communication to Third Party Reporting Vendors

The final, immediate reporting recommendation I would make is for organizations to be in contact with their third party reporting and marketing vendors, in an effort to understand how they will be dealing with this change. Thus far, a few larger web analytics vendors have made announcements of review, but not the majority.

Google’s indication that this change will impact less than 10% of searches, coupled with the minimal impact felt over the first couple weeks, has led to a slow reaction (in my opinion) from solution providers outside of Google Analytics.

I would not let third party reporting companies minimize the significance of this change. If the data above and from other agencies does not convince you that the percentage of keyword data impacted will increase, know Google is proactively encouraging more searchers to try Google+, thereby increasing adoption of encrypted search.

Final Thoughts & Opinion

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land compares the significance of this change to Google’s censorship in China. Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz astutely points out how this change does nothing to prevent black hat tactics, spam marketing, or general abuse, but certainly limits how search engine marketers and site owners as a whole will be able to evaluate their SEO programs.

It will be interesting to see if the broader marketing public takes greater notice moving forward. My suspicion is that as traffic and search keyword reports are completed after the holiday season, we will start to see greater acknowledgement and coverage. That said, it behooves marketers to stay ahead of changes of this potential magnitude as quickly as possible.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel or believe that this change has significant impact? I would love to read your perspective and opinion via comments below.

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Scott Stone — Scott Stone, Advertising & E-Business Manager, Cisco Eagle

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