Blinded by Secure Search – Not Provided

Google Secure Search

For the past two years we have noticed the creeping onset of “(not provided)” results when reviewing analytics software to see what search term visitors typed into the Google search engine to find your website. For many it has seemed like an annoying glitch and to others it foreshadowed something a little more ominous.

Google Turns the Lights Out

Last week Google decided to release unleash its “secure search” in full, thus blocking out 100% of ‘organic’ search terms (of searches within the Google search engine) from the reporting within Google Analytics. Secure search is simply an encrypted type of search, called SSL encryption, that prevents website owners from seeing what keywords people are using to find them… unless they’re using Google Adwords, but more on that later.

A little history on Google secure search

It all began a couple of years ago with secure search becoming the default search for those logged into their Google accounts.  This then gradually extended to web browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, and, as of a few days ago, the default for anyone searching on Google, regardless of browser, device, or whether or not they are logged into their Google account.

 That’s right. One hundred percent of organic Google searches are now encrypted, meaning that regular website owners cannot see the search terms people use to find their websites.

 Why did Google move to encrypted search?

 There’s a lot of speculation as to why Google has taken this drastic step, but one thing’s for sure – it’s a nightmare for SEO and online marketing specialists who use keyword data to help enhance user experience and improve websites’ visibility in search results.

 Some say that, in light of the recent NSA scandal, Google wants to show it has its users’ best interests at heart, and wants to protect as much information as possible from prying eyes, lest it be used for evil.

The more cynical amongst us have inferred that it is a thinly veiled attempt by Google to force business owners to use their Adwords campaigns, since interestingly enough (ahem!), keyword data is still available to those who are signed up to Adwords, the PPC Google money-maker bringing in approximately $42.5 billion in advertising revenue, last year alone.

How does ‘not provided’ affect you?

Google searches have long been a very useful method of determining the best way to attract visitors to your website. If people are searching for a particular item or subject matter, one can attract more visitors to their site simply by talking or offering more valuable and useful content based around that subject / search query.  Essentially, it was an effective way to find out how to provide valuable content to your readers and potential customers – and Google has pulled the plug on that method – but only with respect to Google searches.   A good Internet marketer will be able to utilise historical data and other tools that are available to aid in deciphering analytics.  This may include other search engines such as Bing, and Yahoo (for which one is still able to see the search terms within Google Analytics), and more importantly a deep understanding of Internet marketing.

While this will undoubtedly change the face of SEO and online marketing, the important thing to remember is that your SEO team should continue providing relevant, valuable information to their customers – because at the end of the day, that’s what matters, and enables further growth.

Is it possible Google could have a change of heart, or at least make amendments to it’s policy?  We have yet to see any response from Google to the many questions being asked by the search marketing community around the world on this subject!