Because search is becoming increasingly customized and personal, Google has chosen to encrypt search results in order to secure better user privacy.  Read the full blog post here.  Encrypted search will become the default experience for signed in users on Google.com.

The gist of it:

  • When a signed in user visits your site, all web analytics (including Google Analytics) will recognize the visit as Google “organic”.
  • The search query terms will no longer be reported (i.e. how the user reached your site).
  • It’s expected this will only affect a minority of traffic (according to the Google Analytics blog).
  • Query data will be aggregated with no change, included visitors from users who aren’t signed in and CPC visits as well.
  • Conversion dates, segmentations, and more will still be available.

Paid search (or PPC) is also personalized to a user’s IP address and search history, but will not be affected by this change.  PPC data will remain unchanged, unfiltered by any privacy updated and true conversion data will still be available.

What Does This Mean for Online Marketing and SEO?

No one really knows the percentage of users who Google query while signed into their accounts, although it is fairly safe to assume that a good portion of users do travel from their Gmail account to make a query (and other Google applications as well).  When this happens, you will no longer be able to obtain referring keyword phrases used to find your services, products, and site.  When a user is signed in and visits your site organically, conversion data is lost.  If all site traffic comes from unsigned users, your data should remain unaffected (an unlikely scenario).  Even if one visitor who is signed into their account navigates to your site, their keywords and conversion will go unassociated.  You will however, get visitation data, segment data.

This change does hurt both search marketers and big and small businesses, making it harder to craft a precise organic strategy as data is skewed and it’ll be harder to determine whether or not strategy is successful.  This does cause an issue for data-backed strategy.  Similarly to the Panda update, we’ll have to wait and see what happens and how data is affected by the change, which doesn’t appear to be implemented as of yet.  Boomtown is carefully monitoring analytics and will use other methods to obtaining keyword searches—we will continue to help our clients measure website data effectively despite the changes.

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