Overcoming Google’s HTTPS search

Google recently introduced HTTPS on the search engine’s homepage, which allowed users to encrypt their data whilst searching. For search marketers this is bad news. But there are ways to overcome it.

Back in 2010 Google introduced a HTTPS variant of the search engine’s homepage, which allowed users to encrypt their data whilst searching. A year later Google began encrypting the data of their omnibox and to all signed-in users, slowly increasing the ‘not provided’ figure for keyword analytics. Google have now redirected all of it’s search engine traffic to the HTTPS website, sparking outcry among the online marketing community.

What’s the big deal – Surely encryption is better than no encryption?

Online marketing relies, at least in part, on Google providing users’ search terms to it’s online analytics tool which allows digital marketers to manage search engine optimisation and find key areas where user experience should be improved. With Google removing access to this data, it leaves a big keyword shaped hole in the realm of online analytics.

There seems to be a lot of anger on the forums I’ve visited, with many opting to “use Bing” and “boycott Google”. In my opinion, that’s never going to happen – Marketers follow users, and to users, having their data encrypted isn’t a bad thing. So users will continue to use Google, and [we] will continue to use Google’s services, too.

Another area of annoyance appears to be the reasoning behind Google’s change. A number of blog replies have mentioned that Google Analytics isn’t a third-party tool, and that Google could simply decrypt the data for that service – Maintaining a secure connection to users and data for marketers. Personally, I don’t think they’d ever do this (nor should they). If they’re going to encrypt users data, they should commit to those beliefs – Decrypting it for website admins just wouldn’t make sense.

So will Google make this data available to Analytics Premium (paid) users, instead?

Again, I don’t think this is likely to happen. Firstly there would be the (probably bad) publicity from the media and online community, as well as the negative perception from both marketers and users. More importantly, however, Google would be going against their own privacy claims – A step backwards for a company who claims to take a users privacy so seriously.

Add to this that Analytics Premium users is (currently) a pretty small revenue stream, and I think Google’s plans to make keyword data paid is just online rumor.

How can we (digital marketers) keep monitoring keywords for our websites?

  • One option is to begin taking SERP positions more seriously – However don’t forget that localized results may skew this metric, so make sure that you’re mitigating any potential factors such as this.
  • There’s a lot of chatter about using AdWords keyword information, which is still available, as a basis for monitoring keywords. This is a good option, although keep in mind the differing behavior between organic and paid traffic.
  • Compare local monthly search results for terms that you’ve identified through keyword suggestion tools and from other search engine analytics (Bing, Yahoo!). Beginning to check other search engine keywords is generally advisable.
  • If your site has on-site search, review the search terms from that to find what users are really trying to find, and spend more time optimising for those.

There’s one more gem in the rough, with is definitely worth exploring. Webmaster Tools offers keyword analytics (even phrases whichhave been seen as ‘not provided’ in analytics!) for up to 90 days. This is a potential option for the moment, although who knows how long it will remain – Just be sure to take monthly or quarterly exports of the data so you always have access to it.

John Alexander Rowley

An enthusiastic digital marketing professional passionately dedicated to increasing the online presence of businesses and individuals in order to improve engagement and ROI.

Why I love digital marketing

Headlines from #SearchLeeds 2018

SearchLeeds 2018 has finally come and gone. Another year of fantastic talks across three stages hosted by the Branded3 team. The key topics of 2018? AI, Progressive Web Apps and data feeds.

Read the full article

Using ‘surprise’ to determine paid links

This article covers why surprise is a good measure for determining if a link is likely to be identified as a ‘paid link’ and how surprise correlates to paid link severity, plus a couple of examples along the way.

Read the full article

What is SEO? A 20 minute presentation

I’m often asked ‘What is SEO?’ and usually give the simple answer – Getting websites to the top of Google. But in reailty there’s much more to it than that! Find out what’s involved in modern SEO!

Read the full article