To a chorus of “boos” from the online SEO community, Google announced this week that all signed-in Google user searches would now be encrypted as standard via the https://www.google.com domain, meaning that keyword information will now be stripped from Organic search results. Users of all analytics platforms will no longer be able to view which keyword signed-in Google users used to arrive on site! Users arriving by Organic search via the SSL secured page will now be identified by the words (not provided) in Google Analytics keyword level reports.
Short term, this is unlikely to cause a massive alteration to the data available. Estimates currently put the number of people conducting searches while logged into Google to be in the single-digit % figures. Recent analysis of our client data suggests that….. a full day after search has been encrypted for those logged in State-side, a location based, organic-only visit report by Keyword for a randomly chosen client in Google Analytics; only 1.72% of visits were attributed to (not provided) keywords.
Why is Google taking away your valuable keyword data? The debate rages, but the official word is that Google takes the security of its users very seriously, and this is a further act to protect them. A question many are asking is: How many people pass through personal information in their search queries? Furthermore, how many people felt this was a necessary step for Google to take (especially considering they have offered their encrypted.google.com service since the beginning of the year .
Why now? The number of users logged into Google while performing searches is still small, however as Google + and any other platforms which require sign-in begin to attract the kind of numbers Google are going for, the percentage of users we can see keyword data for will fall, and site optimisations based on important keyword data will become a less viable and reliable option.
There is a large proportion of the online community considerably more sceptical about Google’s plans. Much of this scepticism derives from the fact that keyword data will continue to be available at PPC level. Google Adwords customers would be considerably less tolerant of such a drastic change in available referrer information as advertisers rely on keyword data to make the decisions and optimise their campaigns.
Is Google really saying: “the privacy of our users is of utmost importance, until someone is ready to pay for the information”? Perhaps not, but it will be interesting to keep an eye out for any shifts in paid search channel share over the coming months, especially if Google+ becomes a hit among the social networking community.