Warning: This isn’t one of those happy news updates that opens up new doors for your marketing — like Facebook announcing embedded posts. Nope — this is one that’s going to actually close some doors for you. And like Peter Griffin says, it’s really going to grind your gears. Yesterday, Search Engine Land reported that Google has made a change aimed at encrypting all search activity — except for clicks on ads.
When approached by Search Engine Land, Google reportedly confirmed the switch, saying the following:
“We 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.”
This means marketers won’t even be able to get keyword data for searches conducted by users who aren’t even signed in. (Cue marketers everywhere raising their fists in fits of rage.)
Why, Google … Why?!
So Google says, the reason for the switch is to provide “extra protection” for searchers. Search Engine Land, however, suspects that Google may also be attempting to block NSA spying activity — since Google was accused of giving the National Security Agency access to its search data back in June (which it has strongly denied). We also can’t help but think that, because Google is encrypting search activity for everything but ad clicks, this is a move to get more people using Google AdWords.
What All This Means
Okay … so what does all this mean to you, the marketer? First, here’s a quick recap of how we got here …
You may recall that back in October 2011, Google (citing the reason of privacy), announced it would start encrypting search results for logged-in Google users (including any Google-owned product like YouTube, Google+, Gmail, etc.). This meant that marketers were no longer able to identify which keywords a person who was logged into Google.com searched for before they arrived at your website — even if they were using a web or marketing analytics platform like HubSpot. And without these keyword insights, marketers would have a much tougher time knowing which keywords to target to achieve greater visibility in search. No bueno.
While Google initially said this would impact less than 10% of all searches conducted, we quickly noticed that percentage rise. In November 2011, we analyzed the keywords of HubSpot’s customers to find that more than 11% of organic search traffic was being affected, and by January of this year, we’d found that for the HubSpot website specifically, about 55% of the organic search we got each month was encrypted (and we’d seen that percentage steadily rising by about 4 percentage points each month). Things appeared to be getting more serious.