Google Query Encryption Angers SEO Pros
On October 18, 2011, Google released its’ query encryption update. The new update protects organic searchers using SSL (Secure Sockets Layers). Keen observers may have noticed that by default you are now sent to https://www.google.com instead of http://www.google.com.
Google noted on its’ support page that the primary motivation for this update is to protect the safety and security of its’ searchers. In terms of concrete effects, this means that any websites searchers navigated to from Google can, in a certain percentage of cases, no longer see which keywords referred the person to that site.
If you take the time to examine your Google Analytics data to see which keywords are driving traffic to your site, you may see “not provided.” This is the direct result of Google’s Query Encryption Update.
In some cases, the amount of data that is “not provided” is 10%, 20%, 30%, or even more.
Two authoritative organizations, Search Engine Watch and Conductor have each conducted their own small studies. Conductor found that, on average, about 2% of results were affected in late October, with that number rising to nearly 18% by late November.
Conductor found those numbers to be 6.5% in late October, nearly 11% in mid-November, and 9% in late November.
With these fairly different results, it’s hard to determine what the overall trend really is.
So Why is Google Really Doing This?
Of course, few people buy the idea that Google is acting to protect the privacy and security of people performing organic searches. Most searchers are more concerned with paid advertiser tracking of their data than organic tracking.
The first theory about Google’s real motivation behind this update is that it is doing so in order to squeeze out competition to its’ Google Adwords service. Interestingly, while some keyword data is not available for people performing organic Google searches, all keyword data is available for one of Google’s moneymakers, Adwords.
How come the rule doesn’t apply when Google stands to profit? This is a very fair question that Google is yet to answer. What Google will say is that they are concerned about the privacy of their searchers, and only a small percentage of traffic will be affected.
Another proposed theory is that Google is doing this in order to appease the political elite in Washington. No one can cite any current legislation or political moves that would force Google into such a move, but Washington does have a history of protecting the privacy of its’ citizens on the internet.
The whole SEO community is in an uproar over the update, as it makes the job of SEO professionals that much more imprecise and difficult to perform. Most take it as another move by a powerful corporation to maintain power over the search engine results.
Whether you like it or not, there’s not too much that can be done about the whole situation. As long as searchers prefer Google, nothing can be done to change what it decides the rules of the game should be.