Google Switches To Secure Search – What Does This Mean For Your SEO?

large-googlesecure2013 has certainly been an interesting year in the world of SEO. But one of the more recent developments is one that many SEO professionals hoped would never come.

Google has encrypted all search activity and keyword data is no longer being passed through to websites.

Why would they do this?

Simply put, this is to provide extra protection for searchers.

This began in October, 2011; when Google originally began encrypting searches for anyone who was logged into a Google account. The reason given for this was privacy. Google wanted to prevent anyone from potentially “eavesdropping” on a pattern of searches made by an individual and also to block publishers for seeing specific search phrases, due to some of them being too “private” to reveal.

So, if this has been going on since 2011, why is it such a big deal now?

Google are now encrypting searches for people who aren’t even signed-in – this is known as secure search.

Secure search means that all activity conducted via Google’s search engine are now done so through an SSL encrypted search. The searches are now routed to a website by a redirect, leaving webmasters clueless as to what search term was used to find their website.

Whereas before, in Google Analytics, you could see what keyword was used, the majority of these are now showing up as “(not provided)” – and the number is increasing by the day!

But why have they changed so suddenly?

There are two main theories as to why the change occurred so quickly:

1) In June, 2013, Google was accused of not co-operating with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

The NSA wanted instant and direct access to Google’s search information through the PRISM surveillance programme, which was apparently denied. Google has strongly refuted these claims, but this hasn’t saved the company from criticism.

As a result, Google began a crusade to be more transparent about the amount of spying requests it says it does receive, but are prohibited from disclosing by US law.

We suspect that secure search could be in retaliation to the NSA debacle; Google hate PR negativity!

2) The other theory is that secure search has been pushed through in order to boost Adwords sales; however this claim is unsubstantiated.

If you are actively running Google Adwords campaigns you can still see the keywords which people are searching for to find your website.

This lends weight to the above theory because in order to for non-customers to improve their SEO efforts, and determine the effectiveness of their chosen keywords, they need to sign up for Adwords.

It would certainly be a smart marketing tactic.

How can I get around secure search without signing up for Adwords?

Well, there are a few things you can do.

Firstly, think outside the Google bubble; Bing is your friend, not your foe.

Bing does not use SSL encryption. And whilst Bing generates significantly lower traffic levels than Google, it can provide you with a lot of invaluable search data.

Next, make sure you have a Google Webmaster Tools account. And, more importantly, make sure you are using it correctly.

You can still obtain keyword data from Webmaster Tools, including data from encrypted searches. However, do bear in mind that this data only covers the previous 90 days, so make sure you that you download a report at least once per month, so that you can retrieve this data as and when you need it.

Then, have a look at your on-site searches – if you are able to retrieve this data. This will provide you with an added insight into what people are looking for.

And finally, dig a little deeper on Google Analytics. Although you may not be able to see what search terms have been used to find your website, you can see which pages searchers have landed on. This can also help identify pages which need optimising further, if your exit or bounce rate is particularly high.

If you are unsure of how to access any of the above information, then OWB can help. One of our SEO team can provide you with a short consultation to ensure that you are getting the most out of your data. If you’re interested in a consultation, or you would like to learn more about our SEO services then please get in touch today.