The switch has been flipped, and Google has now officially transitioned all analytics data to Secure Search, which means keywords from Google searches that lead to page views on your site are no longer available within Google Analytics or from any other SEO or marketing analytics platform including the keywords passed into Dynamics CRM through ClickDimensions.
While the referrer and referrer type will continue to come in as “google.com” and “search engine” respectively, the keywords are not passed if the referral URL is HTTPS.
This is the day marketers and webmasters have been dreading since Google announced in 2011 that they were launching Secure Search on a separate URL. That led to all searches from logged-in Google accounts being passed through the encrypted search, and ultimately all browser search toolbars and Google’s Chrome Omni-Bar using the secure service by default.
Now, all traffic, logged-in or not, is passed through HTTPS and no keyword data will be available for marketers and webmasters to analyze and optimize their content strategies and key messages.
Why did Google decide to do this?
In the release, Google states that they’ve “[…] added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome Omnibox earlier this year. We’re now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in.” Perhaps this is tied to this summer’s drama with Edward Snowden and the supposed PRISM spying program in which Google was accused of cooperating with the NSA to provide direct access to search data. Google refuted those claims and perhaps this encryption of all searches is in response to the many users who emigrated to secure search engines like DuckDuckGo, and StartPage.com.
Google also did mention that keyword data will continue to be passed for Adwords traffic, which leaves you wondering if they are trying to force marketers into paid ads instead of organic search in order to have insight into what search keywords deliver referral traffic to their site.
Keyword data will be accessible when analyzing Adwords traffic, but is limited to only 90 days of ad clicks, and only the top 2,000 keywords per day, which they are all too quick to say they will be raising.
Perhaps this is really in the best interest for consumers of Google search. Perhaps, it’s a heroic PR spin on the PRISM accusations and protecting the common good. Or maybe this is an opportune time for Google to cut back on its non-revenue generating services and capitalize on Adwords, create new customers, and narrow the privacy loophole to only those who pay to play. It is a potential win-win for Google, but at the expense of marketers and webmasters relying on organic search keywords to help optimize their content.
Other search engines may likely follow, but as for now, traffic from search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, and Ask continue to provide keywords for organic search visits.
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