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Have you noticed that you’re getting fewer Web visits, leads, and tracked calls lately from Yahoo? You’re not alone—and it’s most likely going to get worse.
Back when Google moved to secure search by default in Sept. 2013, data-savvy businesses and marketers had to mourn the loss of their organic keyword data. Yahoo appears to be taking this a step farther.
Yahoo Does a Partial Rollout of Secure Search
I’m going to try not to bury the lede here—when I tell you that Yahoo secure search is more robust than Google’s, we’re not just talking keyword (not provided). The bronze-medaling search engine is obscuring source and medium as well as keywords. This means that your organic visits in Google Analytics from Yahoo aren’t even going to show up as organic visits from Yahoo; they’re going to show up instead as direct traffic.
One of Blue Corona’s top analysts—Zack Perini—walked me through this:
Yahoo currently still has an unsecured (non https://) version of its search engine up at search.yahoo.com. If you run a search for your site on this page and click through to your site from its organic listing, you’ll still see the visit register as an organic visit from Yahoo in your Google Analytics profile, and the _utmz cookie (which tells Google Analytics where a visitor came from) is intact.
But Yahoo also has a message on its search.yahoo.com page asking users to “please try the full Yahoo experience at Yahoo.com.” When you perform a search from the main Yahoo page, you’ll notice that the search engine results page switches over to a secured (https://) version. If you run a search for your page off of this version of the search engine and click through to your site from the organic listing, you’ll see the visit register as a direct visit in your Google Analytics profile, and the_ utmz cookie is stripped of the source, medium, and keyword information.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (a former engineer for Google) wrote in a blog post in Nov. 2013 that the search engine planned to offer users an option to encrypt all data flow to/from Yahoo by the end of Q1 2014.
To compare, Bing is currently testing secure search as well, but hasn’t given its rollout that aggressive of an end date. Zack pointed out that an http:// version of Bing exists, but that bing.com does not currently redirect to it.
The Problem with Yahoo Secure Search
Yahoo secure search brings up a bit of a reporting problem. If you’re trying to get an accurate picture of your marketing, you obviously need to granularly track all your marketing strategies to make data-driven decisions on where to spend your budget and effort.
By taking away the source and medium reporting (in addition to the keyword reporting), Yahoo prevents our ability to track website traffic and leads in Analytics. In addition, call tracking also makes use of the _utmz cookie, so we will no longer be able to track Yahoo phone leads through this method either.
We don’t have one—yet. And we’re not sure why Yahoo is taking secure search to this extent. There’s been very little reporting on this so far, but what’s clear is that Yahoo moving entirely to this extreme secure search will surely make it more difficult to report.
Update 2/7/14: Since this post was published, news broke that Yahoo is planning initiatives to get back into the algorithmic search and search advertising game and is anxiously awaiting the end of its limiting partnership with Microsoft. According to re/code, “under the 10-year agreement, Microsoft’s Bing search engine provides the search technology on Yahoo, as well as the search-advertising technology.”
Early reports show that Yahoo plans to focus on the areas of mobile search and predictive search, where it stands a chance to differentiate itself from other search engine giants.
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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