Back in mid-October Google announced that it would begin blocking organic search data from users who are logged in to their Google account, causing consternation among website owners and managers everywhere. The issue for webmasters, marketing firms and others with a vested interest in data about their website’s visitors was that blocking this vital data from logged in users could skew their analytics data significantly.
According to Google, this move was prompted by concerns about protecting the privacy of the personalized search results that they deliver to users who are signed in to their services (such as Google Docs or Gmail). They will, however, continue to provide search term data to Adwords advertisers. Users who search via Google but are not logged in will also have all their search data passed to Google analytics.
When they first announced this change Google predicted that encrypted search results would account for less than 10% of all searches, but as the tactic is rolled out to more and more users the percentage appears to be climbing.
Search marketing publications like Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land have been reporting as much as 12% of their traffic coming from these encrypted searches. However SEO technology firm Conductor recently completed a study of 1.7 million searches and found that 6.5% were being affected by the new Google search rollout.
Although this number is considerably lower than some of the anecdotal reports coming in, it also reveals a significant jump in the number of affected searches in the past week, with only a tiny number being initially impacted (see above graph). This trend has many marketers and webmasters worried that more and more of their Google analytics data will be skewed, making it more and more difficult for them to accurately use this data to make decisions about their websites.
James Mathewson summed it up well at Marketing Pilgrim:
Why is this a big deal? In my company (IBM) a 20% difference between reported and actual referrals on the word “cloud computing” could result in millions of dollars in leads that are not reported in one month. That might be the difference between continuing to invest in organic optimization and putting those dollars into other tactics, not all of them digital (gasp).
Check out Search Engine land for more reactions to the switch to encrypted Google searches. General reactions from the SEO community are negative, and some are quite cynical, while many privacy advocates have applauded the move.
Whatever your feelings about the efficacy and politics of the switch, it’s important to try and keep it from impacting your online marketing as much as possible. There is additional data being made available via Google Webmaster Tools, and this will likely become an increasingly important tool as more and more searches are affected by the switch. If you want to learn more about how you can get ahead of the curve on this and other Google changes, contact Fruition for more details.
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