Google Search Goes Secure, Creating a (Not Provided) Nightmare for Organic Search Marketers

Google Secure Search Frustration

Google recently made changes to its search engine, forcing all users of Google.com to use the secure version of the search engine. You will notice when you visit Google.com next time, that the url in the address bar will start with https:// instead of the normal http://. You can try to remove the ‘s’ to get to a non-secure search, but it will redirect you back to the secure version.

What is a Secure Search from Google?

A secure search refers to a search done over a secure protocol using an SSL. In the case of a Google search, it encrypts the data you are sending to the system to protect your privacy, and as a result, hides some of the basic information that is usually sent with any http request. The keyword that a user searches with is included in that basic information. Instead of sending the keyword data as part of the referring url, as was done with non-secure searches before, Google now only shows the referrer as google.com. This means that we are no longer able to connect Google user searches to visits.

Why Did Google Do This To Me?

Google is claiming that it made this switch in order to protect the privacy of its users. With the recent leaks about the United States Government spying on users’ activities, Google has decided to make this change in order to protect us. There are varying debates on whether this is the true reason for the switch, but one couldn’t blame Google if this was indeed the reasoning behind the change.

What Can I Do Without Keyword Data?

The absence of keyword data is going to be a big deal to a lot of Search Marketers out there. But with some creative thinking, and the general acknowledgement that your keyword data is not absolute, we should be able to keep moving forward. First you must accept that Keyword Data reports are not and never again will be absolute data. We can no longer simply report numbers to a client or manager and call it good.

Instead of reporting data, what we really want to do is interpret the data. And luckily for us, partial data is still valuable and can still provide insight. No we can not say for sure how many users came to the site for a specific term, but we never could actually accurately report that anyway. Google Analytics requires Javascript to be able to track users’ data. According to http://www.w3.org/ approximately 2% of internet users in the United States are currently browsing the web without Javascript being enabled on their browser. This means that 1 out of every 50 users on average are not even being counted in your stats to begin with.

So, everyone take a deep breath. It is not a time to panic, but it is a time to innovate. This is an opportunity for you to set yourself apart from your competitors and find new creative ways to take advantage of the change.

photo credit: e-magic via Flickr