Reactions From SEOs Come Loud, Fast & Often Angry To Google’s Switch To Encrypted Search

angry-reactionGoogle 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

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.)

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Features: Analysis | Google: Analytics | Google: Privacy | Google: Web Search | Legal: Privacy


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Michael Martinez

    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?

  • Phillip Gross

    @ Michael Martinez – If you rely on Enterprise versions of Software i.e. Omniture, Web Trends etc… this is a big deal because you will no longer be able to compile keyword data via those tools. Webmaster Tools is limited to 1000 Queries per day. When you have millions of queries coming in a day 30k a month is not statistically relevant. If any website measures Branded vs Non-Branded Traffic. Those numbers will be skewed. additionally unless I missed something, you will manually have to collect this data every thirty days, so there is no easily going back to April to see what you did. It essence this introduces another manual process which largely seems to be a step backwards in terms of technology.

    Privacy-wise: Personally I dont care about small website getting my keyword query. I care about big giants like Google knowing all of my information. I am all for quality of results and personalisation is certainly the way to go. However in large this appears to force more companies to use Google’s Tools and Pay them even more $$$. It is another step toward their monopoly in the internet/search world. To

  • TimmyTime

    Missing here is some perspective: Larry Page cares about time, so he doesn’t want you to waste time looking at logs, or thinking about what to do your money (hello Panda!)

  • IanLockwood

    Seriously, in what world is WMT keyword data a replacement for referrer data? I haven’t seen a WMT account yet where the keyword report bears any relation to the actual keyword referrers from Google searches in Analytics. Also, WMT data cannot be segmented, significantly reducing its usefulness. I don’t see Goals or E-commerce reporting in there either – the most important bit of data vs. keywords there is!

    Absolute crap Google. I completely agree with the comments regarding privacy (only the fools in government could be duped by this, anyone in the industry knows it’s anonymous anyway) and Google forcing us to buy keyword data (which if it’s from AdWords could have completely different characteristics from organic traffic anyway).

  • Mamun Rashid

    Just how Google made the connection between Privacy and “Keyword” referrer is a complete mystery to me.

  • Amber Cebull

    I use Hubspot’s keyword tool, and they switched their data to Bing – so… doesn’t affect me. People are going to start needing more robust analytics, so they’ll just accelerate the natural move over anyway.

  • Arnout Hellemans

    Well, I here’s what I think the reasons might be (some of them far fetched):
    1. GA premium users and other analytics providers would be able to purchase the organic keyword data (might not even be real-time).
    2. Despite the Panda updates the SERP’s get less relevant, So by partly blinding the SEO’s and webmasters they might get some extra slack.
    3. The search query data removal makes sure that the content on the page can’t be changed, and no retargeting can be done.
    4. Google wants control over the search data they release….

    Privacy concerns; I don’t believe it…..Google does ‘evil’….

  • Alex Edlund

    Well, I can only agree with what has already been said.

    Using GWT as an alternative, really isn’t.. an alternative. It’s highly inaccurate, 30 day limitation and slow to update.

    The Google PR machine better get to work on this one. It’s obvious that privacy concerns are just being used as an excuse to mislead people from their real intentions. There are far greater privacy issues at stake which are not being tackled. The hardest pill to swallow is how advertisers are given the upper hand while those with limited budgets will suffer.

  • IrishWonder

    I am surprised nobody is talking about this new “privacy” feature as Google’s way to trick more users into using Google accounts, among other things (my post on this: Not to say they are not trying to push site owners from SEO to PPC but there may definitely be more than one reason for G to do this (creating themselves a good image, better monetizing heir data, improving user control).

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