Secure Search: How Google Silently Cloaked the Web

Akin to Thor losing his mighty hammer, or Adele succumbing to strep throat, we SEO professionals recently lost one of our greatest weapons. In the climax of a two year long battle, Google has now made all searches encrypted. This means that keyword data will no longer be passed to site owners, and site users can’t be tracked by their keyword searches. The proportion of “not provided” user analytic data is estimated to rise, especially in sectors such as technology/web development where users usually log into a secure google account.

What Is Secure Search?
In layman’s terms, a webmaster will no longer be able to see how a user came to their site if the search was organic (not advertised). User data from advertised keywords and AdWords campaigns, however, will still be accessible. In 2011, Google implemented the first secure search for users who were logged in to their Google account. On September 23rd, 2013, Google changed this policy to make all searches, logged in or not, secure. From an SEO standpoint, this is disheartening because we can no longer track the organic keywords that drive the most traffic to a website. Understanding exactly what a certain user was looking for when they landed upon your website is now a relic of the past; and as such, webmasters can’t easily adjust content for targeted keywords and search terms. A stagnant web is one of online marketers’ greatest fears; however, there are still ways to understand the search terms your target audience is using to increase organic traffic and qualified leads.

Replacing Data
Many SEO researchers have since found ways to replace the data Google is hiding. One option for marketing professionals is to look at other search engines apart from Google. While Bing and Yahoo don’t have a domineering share of web traffic, they can still provide a good idea of what users are looking for when they arrive to a particular site. Internal site search analytics can be another way to see what users are searching for on-site. Furthermore, Google AdWords will still provide rich user information. Google Ad planner can even help determine the volume and estimated number of clicks per ad, making it a valuable asset in keyword optimization. Finally, historic data prior to the secure search switch will always be useful, especially for seasonal and reoccurring content.

Why, Google?
There is much speculation over why Google decided to mask all user data. Some think of Google as a Good Samaritan, whose privacy protection helps guard against unwanted online eavesdropping. Others think the search engine giant may be trying to generate more revenue through advertising. Companies that dominate the natural searches tend to not invest much into Google AdWords, but they may have to now in order to test new keyword market areas. Spokespersons for Google commented that the company made the secure search move entirely for security reasons, and it is likely that other search engines will follow suit. Complaining to these companies is not likely to catalyze change or regression to the good ‘ol days of non-secure user data. Instead, it is the job of the SEO professionals to adjust to a rapidly changing environment.

Wondering how to adjust to the world of secure search? Contact us at Adpearance for comprehensive SEO strategies, website planning, and content marketing focused on the experience of end-users, as well as the needs of search engines.