How to Overcome Google's Latest Privacy Update a.k.a SSL search


As you may know, Google recently turned the analytics and SEO industry upside down with their latest privacy campaign. The change in privacy has caused a stir on the web and social sphere. Everyone from SEO thought leader Rand Fishkin to Google Analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik is talking about it.

Let’s discuss in detail the new privacy change and measure its impact. On October 18th 2011, Google announced that signed in users (gmail and other Google accounts) will by default experience SSL version of Google search i.e Previously, the SSL search was only available by choice to users who visited Google’s secured search page through URL


Before October 18th 2011

ScreenHunter 12 Oct. 24 22


ScreenHunter 14 Oct. 24 22

This change certainly provides more secured browsing experience to the end users but there are few caveats –

1. The SSL default search is only available for Google services logged in user. Users who are not logged into any of Google’s services will not experience SSL search by default.

2. Google will not pass the search keyword referral data for users who click the organic search listings when using secure search. The organic keywords report for all the web analytics tools will show “(not provided)” as the referrer instead of the actual keywords. However, paid search is excluded from this restriction and paid keyword referral data will be passed through paid search clicks. Google has not provided any explanation for this change.

Most marketers are worried as this may sound to be the beginning to an end of analytics. As I see it, this is an opportunity to start thinking about web analytics 2012+. SSL certification is the future of web and sooner or later more websites will adopt to this change. Online marketers have to think new ways to measure the success of the web campaigns, including finding ways to get referral data from SSL websites.

Here are some of my thoughts on the future of web analytics.

– Google recently launched enterprise analytics service and as far as I can recall the fee for this service is atleast 100k+ annually. Enterprise web analytics is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and Google is fully aware of this opportunity.

– Google has made some dramatic changes to the free Google Analytics interface in last few months releasing SEO reports, flow visualization, multi-channel analytics and more.

– Paid search continues to be the key revenue driver for the search giant and Google’s display revenue surpassed $1billion earlier this year.

– Facebook leads the US display ad revenue share with 17.1%.

This clearly shows analytics will continue to be the critical component of the online marketing. It will evolve with the web/mobile space and is not going anywhere.

Finally, let’s review how the SSL search change is impacting the keyword referral data.

Here are few steps to measure the impact of the secure search –

1. Create a “Keyword” advanced segment with the exact match being the word “(not provided)” including the parenthesis.

keyword advanced segment


2. Apply the segment to the “Organic Search Traffic” report along with the “Search Traffic” advanced segment.

key word not found

The overall impact to this sample website is 87/4,386 = 1.98%

This data may increase over the next few weeks as additional logged in users are cookied with SSL search. Based on the current portfolio of the enterprise and non enterprise websites we manage, we have seen the impact range anywhere from 0.5 to 2%.

Google’s lead software engineer Matt Cuts unofficially confirmed a single-digit impact, and so far it seems pretty accurate.

What kind of impact are you seeing on your website? Please share your thoughts feedbacks and insights.

Here is a list of the related top blog posts on this blog –
Top 10 Outrageous Web Analytics Myths..Debunked
Ultimate Web Analytics Training Guide: From Click to Close
Offline Analytics: Measuring Success of Offline Campaigns
Top 3 Worst Web Analytics Metrics & Reports

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