Google will be encrypting all search engine queries, even for users who aren’t signed in to Google, rendering nearly 100% of keyword data indefinable (“not provided”) for B2B marketers. This found and highlighted in a recent discussion on Threadwatch and further discussed on Search Engine Land.
Search engine encryption eliminates the keyword portion of referrer URL tracking, so that search query data cannot be tracked by third party reporting tools such as Google Analytics. Historically, B2B marketers have used keyword referral data to gain a better understanding of what keyword searches drive leads, and also to help measure ROI of SEO programs.
Paid advertising data (IE, Google AdWords) will not be effected. The search community has had a mixed reaction to the news. Rand Fishkin, CEO and founder of Moz, has called the recent Google news “Very troubling and concerning, obviously, if you’re a web marketer… [but] a lot of this data, and a lot of these opportunities are retrievable – they’re just a lot harder.”
Furthermore, SEO expert Aaron Aders believes, “While secure searches may seem frustrating to many SEO marketers, this is actually a great move for our industry. Great SEO today is great content with powerful digital endorsements from relevant and authoritative websites, which results in business results that transcend the keyword conversation.”
Google first launched encrypted search for logged-in users back in October 2011, with the goal of “protecting the personalized search results.” As reported in Search Engine Land, privacy was inferred as the primary reason for this change but Google specifically worked a loophole to allow keyword data for their AdWords product in particular.
While it was originally indicated this change would impact only single digit search percentages, Komarketing saw a 10% increase in “not provided” traffic over a three week span, a month later. The percentage has exponentially increased over the past few years as more visitors register with Google services and different browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Safari have adopted secure browsing.