Back in 2011, search engine giant Google made the decision to encrypt the search data of its users who were signed into their Google accounts.
It was considered a minor inconvenience for businesses and marketers seeking to analyse which keyword searches were driving organic traffic to their site. It was and remains a valuable form of data for businesses to use when improving their search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts.
So for each logged in Google user, their search behaviour was off limits. If a business were to check out the analytics of those who landed on their site via an organic search, all Google users' search behaviour would be marked as "Not available", "unknown" or something similar.
A business could get a number on how many landed on their site via organic searches, but they were not able to identify which keywords logged in Google users typed in to get there. But for every logged in Google user, there was a far larger percentage of people who were searching on Google without being logged into a Google account. This meant their search behaviour was still recorded and provided for a website's analytics.
Now, however, this is set to change...
Every Google search will now be encrypted
As you've likely guessed from the title of this article, Google will no longer just be encrypting the search behaviour of users logged into Google, but the search behaviour of anyone and everyone that uses Google - logged in or otherwise. As a result of this change, it will mean that when you check your website's analytics, you will no longer be able to identify which specific keywords a user searched for to find your website.
Given that keywords still play a significant role in the process of SEO, it basically means websites will be flying blind when it comes to understanding the keywords that really bring them the best results - or, at the very least, which keywords those who land on the site tend to search for the most. While organic search behaviour will be blocked out, traffic that is gained through AdWords search results will still be included. But this has always been the case with AdWords.
Unfortunately, this now means that if you want any insight into how organic Google searches influence your website visits, you'll only be able to see an overall number, not the specific terms that captured those users.
What this means for marketers
The full impact of Google's decision to encrypt search results across the board (barring paid results) will not be completely known until the new parameters are rolled out globally. What's certain is that it is going to impact on the way in which businesses and marketers analyse the keywords that offer them the best return and which ones will require more focus.
For Australians, the problem will be more pronounced than for countries such as the US. That's because, in the US, Google's rivals Yahoo! and Bing share a little under one third of all search traffic. Yahoo! currently holds a 10% market share while Bing holds 18%. Other smaller search engines such as AOL and Ask.com also contribute to reducing Google's market share. Overall, in the US, Google accounts for 67% of all search results.
The same cannot be said for Australia, however. Google holds a significant market share in Australia, currently accounting for 92.78% of all searches. This means that almost all searches that bring users to Australian websites will remain unknown.
Suffice to say, Google's changes are going to cause some complications, but it's going to be a wait-and-see type of situation for the time being. What is important to remember, though, is that you should continue to focus on white hat SEO practices. No keyword spamming, focus on quality content and do your best to inspire people to stay on your website. Analytics will still allow you to see the pages users view, how much time they spend there, and their behaviour once on your site.
What do you think of Google's choice to encrypt all search results? Do you believe it will have a large impact on your SEO efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Margin Media is an inbound marketing company based in Brisbane. We offer a range of digital marketing solutions to help your business increase its website traffic, qualified leads and customer base. To find out more about our services, give us a call on 1300 798 848 or visit our contact page.