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Bad news for people out there who like seeing where their web visitors come from – Google is moving toward making Secure Search default for all users, meaning that little (not provided) number in your Analytics is about to shoot up like a hockey stick. Webmasters all around the net have been complaining that they’re losing data big time, and if I had to guess, I’d say it’s not going to get any easier from here.
Why the change?
Webmasters should be used to dealing with (not provided) by now – in October 2011, Google introduced Secure Search for anyone logged into a Google account. According to Matt Cutts, this change only affected about 10 percent of Google searches.
Flash forward two years: Google has suddenly and quietly flipped the switch of secure searches for everyone, signed in or not. The Big G themselves have confirmed the move, saying:
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.
No word yet on how soon the changes will roll out for everyone, but we’re seeing a lot of chatter from all over the web from people losing tons of data all of a sudden.
The pros at SearchEngineLand.com have their own opinions about WHY the change occurred. They speculate that it could be one of two things: a response to the NSA spying, or simply a way to increase business for Google Adwords.
Blocking the NSA – everyone who’s been paying attention to the news over the past few months has heard all about the NSA and how they’re spying on everyone. Since June, Google has vehemently denied giving the government data about their users. Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped the accusations from flying.
As a result, the search engine has embarked on a campaign to maintain public trust. This includes not only publishing some information about the number of spying requests it does receive, but also encrypting search for all users.
Boosting ad sales – let’s not forget, of course, that Google’s business model is not built on organic searches – it’s built on ad revenue. We’ve already seen a number of changes to Adwords, including sales cycle tracking and the replacement of the Keyword Tool with the Keyword Planner, and rumors are swirling about an overhaul of the online cookies system that could result in Google essentially owning all online advertising.
Adwords searches have been immune to (not provided) since it rolled out, and it looks like that will continue. In fact, the search engine recently unveiled a system that will allow publishers to store archived keyword queries for as long as they want.
So how can you see Google keyword referrals?
Google Webmaster Tools still has some referral data, but they’ll only show you 2000 referring keywords per day, and only up to the past 90 days (though this is slated to increase to one year). And, as we mentioned, keyword referalls from Adwords will still be available.
With more and more browsers, including Firefox and Safari, moving to secure browsing, we’ve been slowly losing referral keyword data for a long time. This, however, could be the final nail in the coffin. We’ll keep you updated as more information comes out.
In the meantime, we have a few tricks for finding (not provided) keywords. Contact us today if you’d like more insight into how your website is performing.
About The Author: Blue Corona is a data-driven online marketing company with offices in Gaithersburg, MD and Charlotte, N.C.
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