Google caused a major stir in the search marketing community today with the news that it will begin encrypting searches and outbound clicks by default in some situations.
The move means that valuable keyword referral data will not be passed to analytics programs (including Google Analytics) when a logged-in Google user searches from Google.com.
Although Google says the change will impact less than 10 percent of searchers, that’s still a significant amount of keyword referral data that will now be hidden from website owners. Well, it won’t be hidden if those searchers click on one of Google’s ads because, in that case, Google says its advertisers need to be able to “measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present to you.”
In addition to the heated discussion in the comments of our original article, the search marketing industry reacted loudly elsewhere, too. Here’s a sample of what was said.
Tony Verre, on Search Engine Journal: Google Turning the Lights Out on Organic Data
Moreover, those who used analytics just to surmise if people/consumers and how people/consumers found them for something other than BRAND terms, just got a punch in the face [read Mom and Pop shops who can't afford online marketing services and help]. The web might be a key component to survival for them, and taking away accurate data in the name of faux-privacy is a pretty big deal.
Patrick Altoft, on Blogstorm: Google turns off keyword referrer information for logged in users
To me this seems like a move designed both to make Google appear to be protecting users as well as an opportunity for them to take away data that helps big sites build more effective SEO campaigns.
Aaron Bradley, commenting on Google+ in response to my post about the news
I’m a little perplexed that Google has cited privacy concerns with this move. Unless I’m missing something, there’s no way for a Google Analytics user to trace back a referrer to a specific individual whether they’re logged into Google or not. Even with log analysis you’re only going to get an IP, and you’d have to associate that with a user, somehow (and here a logged in Google user would be no different than an anonymous surfer).
Joost de Valk, on SEO Book: Google Whores Out Users With False Privacy Claims
This is what I call hypocrisy at work. Google cares about your privacy, unless they make money on you, then they don’t. The fact is that due to this change, AdWords gets favored over organic results. Once again, Google gets to claim that it cares about your privacy and pulls a major public “stunt”. The issue is, they don’t care about your privacy enough to not give that data to their advertisers.
Alan Bleiweiss, on Search Engine Journal: SEO Under Attack – The Google Analytics Keyword Data Apocalypse
And Google isn’t eliminating ALL keyword data. Only a sub-set. Okay – so if you have a particular site where you know for a fact that the majority of visits come from people signed in to Google, maybe in that particular scenario, you may truly be negatively impacted even from the loss of ability to look at general keyword trends. But how many of you know that’s your particular situation?
Peter Young, on Holistic Search Marketing: The day Google took on SEO, CRO and Analytics
To be honest the fact that its perfectly acceptable for PPC data to be tracked in the same circumstance that Google says it cannot pass organic data through for “privacy purposes” would suggest again this privacy is the least of their concerns. “You can have the data – as long as you pay us” would appear to be the rhetoric here.
Shaun Anderson, on Hobo: Now We Will Need To Pay To See Keyword Referrer Data?
… apparently ADVERTISERS will still get the data through Google Adwords. Hmmm…. so the ‘privacy’ thing is utter bollocks, then. If we pay money we get the data.
Michael Martinez, in comments below on this recap:
It’s funny. You’ll get better data from Google Webmaster Tools’ query report and you can tie that to Google Analytics (or use tools like Keyword Strategy to cull the data) and here people are acting like it’s the end of the SEO keyword research world. Did I dropped from the PANIC MEMO distribution list AGAIN?
That’s just a sample of the reaction we’ve seen over the first few hours since Google’s announcement. No doubt more will be forthcoming, and we’ll update as we hear more. There’s also an active Sphinn discussion with additional opinions about today’s news.
Postscript: See our follow-up piece Google Puts A Price On Privacy.
(Stock image courtesy of Shutterstock. Used under license.)