Google Encrypts Search Data of Those Signed-In

One of the resources that many in the SEO and SEM community use is referral data from users searching keywords on Google.  However, Google has recently made a change in how some of that data that is tracked by Google will be made available.

Those Signed into Google Will Be Redirected to Google's SSL Site
SSL or secure socket layer is used by many sites on the web to encrypt information being sent over the internet.  Those who are signed into Google's services such as Gmail and Docs will now be sent to Google's SSL site when conducting a search.

Normally if you were conducting a search, you would go to the following url: http://www.google.com, but now if you are signed into a Google account and you want to conduct a search you will automatically be sent to: https://encrypted.google.com/

SEO and SEM Professionals are Crying Foul
From a users perspective, using Google's SSL site means their information is encrypted and safer as far as security and privacy are concerned.  However, the search data that is collected from a search done by SSL is not available to those outside Google making many SEO and SEM professionals crying foul.  One piece of information that is very important to SEO professionals is the referral data from users searching.  This means that a site search from the SSL site will be encrypted and searches that lead to clicks to organic results will be unable to pass on the search query string via the referrer.

However, for those using Google's PPC, the information of searches that come from clicking on an ad will be provided-even though they come from the SSL site.  This is where many see the problem.  While protecting one's security and privacy for searching the web using SSL seems like a noble cause, when you are collecting the data even with the SSL and only offering it to those that pay for advertising, it seems as if Google's noble cause doesn't hold any water.  This aspect has many up in arms and stating that Google is not playing fair.

How Many Searches Does this Change Affect?
While this change is obviously not welcomed by the many SEO and SEM professionals that rely on any and every piece of data they can get from Google, an important question to ask is how many searches or what piece of the population will be affected in this change?

Matt Cutts has recently stated that the number of searches that will be affected at full roll out will be in the single digits- with many experts predicting about 7% of Google searches or about 69 million people worldwide.  While this number seems manageable, it should be noted that it is possible that it could be larger due to those using smartphones being signed in when doing searches on the go.

For SEO and SEM Professionals
While this change is an obvious downer for those in the industry, 7% or possibly less is not a game changer.  Many clients that utilize organic search also already utilize PPC which means little or no change for them.  For others that only do organic search there should be other places to find data in aggregate such as Google Webmaster Central.  In addition, an SEO professional can create a custom segment utilizing Google Analytics.  This would make it an effective way to monitor overall performance of a visitor's conversion and you wouldn't have to rely on the data that is not provided with the Organic Search Traffic Keyword reporting tool.

For more information on this topic, please view the following link:  <http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/making-search-more-secure.html>