Beginning yesterday (September 23rd), our marketing team began seeing reports that Google has moved entirely to secure search. Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land were among the first to break the story. We’re now seeing increased coverage of the story while working to verify the updates and convey to our community what it means moving forward.
Over the past months, Google has begun to encrypt search data of its search engine users. This encryption takes place using Secure Socket Layers (SSL). This can be seen through the difference in web address prefixes. Regular web browsing uses the prefix “http://” and secure web browsing uses “https://”. Additionally, users can see a padlock icon next to the URL to indicate secure web browsing.
In regular “http://” search, useful data such as keyword referrals were available to website owners using Google Analytics and other analytics software on their site. In order to see this data, one must have verified access to their website and installed industry-standard web analytics packages.
This means website owners could view keywords searchers used to find their site. The data is useful for improving user experience, connecting marketing efforts to results and helping business owners grow their business presences online. For example in Google Analytics, our team could see the number of visits which occurred from the search term, “internet marketing company Houston”.
There has never, at any point in time, been any personally identifiable data available to website owners or other parties through Google’s search engine in regular “http://” search. In the context of this update, your personal information and privacy have always been secure.
Why Does it Matter?
In “https://” secure search, website owners are unable to view the keyword referral data mentioned above. Instead, website owners see (not provided) as the keyword. The consequence of all Google searches becoming secure is that website owners will only see (not provided) data, instead of keywords.
When secure search was first announced some time ago, it was introduced only for Google users logged into their accounts. However, the recent developments indicate that all Google users (logged in or not) will be using secure search. This means many website owners could see very few, if any search keywords for their sites. Instead of keywords used to find their site, business owners will see (not provided).
Where Are We Going From Here?
Our team is currently in the process of checking against major changes that have been reported. Stories have reported that all Google search engine users (logged in and not logged in to Google accounts) are being forced to use secure search.
As of last night and the time of initial publication, we have been unable to replicate solely for Google Search. Some Google applications such as Maps, Gmail and Drive are defaulting to a secure https connection. Our team will continue to monitor this aspect.
Another major item reported is the rise of (not provided) as a portion of keywords. Some news outlets are reporting upward of 90% not provided to total loss of keywords.
We have not seen total loss of keywords; however have seen increased percentages of (not provided).
The Bottom Line
Balance and a well-rounded approach have always been (and will be) hallmarks of Forthea’s marketing programs. This announcement does not indicate a major change in how we work with our clients. Our internet marketing services are grounded in lead and revenue generation for our clients. However, we may shift the focus of our reporting to accommodate these changes from Google.
Our team has identified and is currently testing methods to gain limited data from secure search. The inability to track keywords and corresponding traffic from Google will mean a reduced focused on this particular area for the foreseeable future. Thus, our team will examine redistributing this focus into other areas such as search engine visibility, competitive share, site engagement and conversions.
Please stay tuned for updates; the team is working hard on all aspects of the situation.