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Google SSL Encryption Means No More Referral Search Data!

Search Engine Optimization October 28th, 2011

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Google SSL Encryption Means No More Referral Search Query Data

I recently noticed something strange within the Google Analytics keyword data: the presence of “Not Provided” in the report and the absence of organic search referral data. This encouraged my team to dig deeper and the conclusion was quite surprising! If you haven’t noticed the difference, try logging into your Google Analytics account and look for your website’s keyword data and note the difference:

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The day after the Google Analytics data was affected Google officially announced that they will no longer provide referral data of the logged in users as a result of them using SSL encryption protocol. Google believes that the SSL encryption will further protect the privacy of their users and enhance the personalised user experience.

Impact of Google SSL Encryption

Users who are signed-in to Google will be automatically redirected to https i.e. secure search. While signed in all the referral search terms will be hidden when clicking on a search result.

Webmasters will now lose out on valuable data they receive about how visitors found their website on Google and the queries associated with it; however from an analytics point of view we can still measure conversion rate and segmentation, but the exact keyword which lead to the conversion will be hard (if not impossible) to track.

Online marketers will no longer be able to track visitor queries of logged-in users. So there’s no way to find out if the logged-in visitor entered your website by typing in “internet marketing” or “application development.” The only data you will see is that the visitor entered your website through Organic Search.

REFERRAL AND SEARCH QUERY DATA FOR PAID ADS:

Google has stated the following “we created the token “(not provided)” within Organic Search Traffic Keyword reporting. You will continue to see referrals without any change; only the queries for signed-in user visits will be affected. Note that “cpc” paid search data is not affected.”

This news is somewhat worrisome for webmasters who depend on search query data for remarketing and landing page optimization.Google has always supported content that provides valuable information to the user, but if webmasters are not aware of the keywords that people are using to find their website, then it’s going to be tough to target and optimize the right pages.

It is interesting how keywords from organic traffic will not be visible whereas the paid click data is not affected, even when the users are signed in! Is this a ploy to get more people to use paid search? Please post in your thoughts on this!

MEASURE & TRACK THE “NOT PROVIDED” DATA:

To measure the “not provided data” in your organic keyword search results we can create a new custom segment in Google Analytics and including “Keyword” followed by exactly matching the word “not provided”:

Once if you have created the advanced segment apply the segment to the Organic search traffic source report and custom segment the “(not provided)” keyword data. Here is a sample custom segment report prepared by us to measure the impact of the SSL encryption, currently only 1.25% of the searches has been affected but I am sure that this will only increase in due time.

EXTRACTING SEARCH QUERY DATA USING WEBMASTER TOOLS

For the time being we will have access to the referral and search query data of the website through the webmaster tools. So make sure that the website is verified in webmaster tools to effectively utilize the following:

  • Measure the top 1,000 search queries that brought traffic to your website for each of the past 30 days.
  • Measure Impressions, clicks, click through rate (CTR), and average position in search results for each query’s data, and compare it to the past 30 days.

Webmaster Tools will display the search queries, but data will not be integrated with visitor activity i.e. you will not be able to track if a visitor has converted after reaching your website. Google has released a new update through which the Webmaster data can be integrated into Google Analytics. If the 30 day time period and the 1000 search query data is extended, then it will give additional information for marketers to harness.

GOOGLE’S PERSONALIZED SEARCH:

SSL encryption was introduced to increase the personalised search experience, but another major factor is to secure Google+ and other Google services. Google has been trying its best to enhance its privacy and also to lure people from Facebook over to Google+ services. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a Google+ application that supports personalised searches.

As Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s Web Spam Team) said the “number of logged in users are in single digits” now, but I am really sure that they will reach mass audience as the network grows and that potential should not be underestimated.” With the SSL update, Google has rolled out another game chenger to improve user experience and this time it’s turning out to be the most talked about topic in the search engine community.

Post By Mahesh (11 Posts)

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Mahesh as been applying his Internet Marketing and Web Analytics skills for over 6 years and has been sharing some of that experience here on the TechWyse blog!

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