The big news released on the webmaster blog recently is Google implementing SSL search as the default option for anyone signed into any of Google’s services (including gMail and Google+), and so removing query data for these searches.
In this blog we’ll focus on explaining the potential implications of this controversial move for SEO/SEMs, both now and in the future. In a case of Google very much giving with one hand and taking with the other, they also announced the in-depth search query data previously only available via webmaster tools is now accessible through analytics, with it’s superior presentation options.
Before this change was implemented any signed in Google user could use their SSL encrypted search by choice, however SSL is now the default search option for all active users. Any user using this search option will now appear in your search queries data as “(not provided)”. Query data obviously performs an important function in both targeting your SEO/SEM , and measuring your success.
The immediate impact of this move is likely to be minimal to the vast majority of sites out there – the exception being those whose target audience is heavily reliant on Google products. Monitoring the levels of “(not provided)” queries arriving at sites you manage will be key to judging the impact to your business. Due to the relatively small numbers of users, particularly on Google+, few sites will see more than 5% of traffic affected currently. However, with a company of Google’s massive brand power pushing Google+ forward, along with it’s other services, this number can only rise.
Google defends the move by citing user privacy, which in today’s environment is of course a major concern of all potential users and an understandable stance. Unfortunately this argument is somewhat undermined by the fact that query data will still be sent if the user arrives via a paid-for ad. This is the real point of contention for those reliant on analytics data on a daily basis. Essentially many believe that far from increasing user privacy the real motive for this move is making paid ads essential to good SEO/SEM practices.
You can see a great explanation and some interesting comments on this issue here on SEOmoz.
Perhaps to ‘sugar the pill’ of this news, Google also recently announced it had made the search query data previously available from webmaster tools accessible through analytics. This combination of more in-depth data and analytics’ superior visualising make for a powerful tool.
The are a number of benefits of this for SEOs using analytics. The geographical sorting of impressions and CTR may provide extremely useful results for those running internationally targeted campaigns; both in terms of success and potential new markets. CTR and impressions on your top thousand queries also means the success of newly targeted phrases can be immediately and specifically measured. Most valuable of all may well be the appearance of unexpected terms which can form the basis of re-targeting your campaign.