Google’s Secured Searches, What to do?

Oct. 24, 2011 | by Chris Suarez

Last Tuesday Google announced that they would send users that were signed in to a secured version of Google which would prevent 3rd party sites from receiving keyword data relating to the organic search query that was conducted.

SEOmoz released an emergency whiteboard Friday video to discuss what this means to webmasters. The take aways from this video are:

  1. Monitor how much of your organic traffic is being logged as ‘not provided’
  2. Mine all of your keyword data from your analytics, internal site search data and webmaster accounts from Google and Bing
  3. If you feel strongly about this pass on any comments and feedback to Google via your Adwords account manager

Another interesting read from Search Engine Land’s post on Google putting a price on privacy describes the work around receiving keyword data from secured Google users.

  • Referral data is lost when going from a secured site to a non-secured site
  • Referral data is retained when searches go from a secured site to another secured site

If an increasing amount of organic search term data is being logged as ‘not provided’ and it seems that Google are not going to reverse their decision, an option to consider is having your site on a secured server so referral data from is not lost. This does come with its own challenges as duplicate content issues may be a result of hasty implementation. With careful implementation you can get your site to rank via https pages, have access to all keyword data and not be vulnerable to duplicate content issues. While this is a drastic work around, it is something to be considered if an increasing amount of keyword data is being lost.

Another growing group of users that will not be tracked are the US smart phone users. If you have an Android phone, you will be signed in, and if you live in the USA, your organic searches via your mobile device will not be logged. If you are on another type of smart phone, there is a high chance (in my opinion) that you will also be logged in to Google.  The reason why this this such big news is because mobile users have different search behaviours on the web when compared to desktop users.  This means that a large proportion of keyword data from smart mobile devices in the US will not be tracked, and not having access to this kind of data when you are growing your mobile store will really hold you back.

While this predominantly affects webmasters/SEO in the US, Google may roll this out to their other international search engines. iCrossing will be keeping their ear to the ground around how this is affecting the SEO community.



Since writing this post a colleague shared an article with me regarding a plausible reason for Google blocking referring keywords if a user is logged into

By looking at the posts that are going round on the web at the moment, this looks like a really hot topic.

It seems that Google may really be looking to protect people’s privacy as the Google+ API has a security flaw in that search queries could be tied back to an individual user, and this information could be miss used in the wrong hands. Hence the reason why signed in searches are not sending referral data.

Initially I advised that webmasters should consider the option of serving their site through a secured server so referral data was not lost, however I feel that in light of the plausible reason why as to why Google may be doing this, we should hold off before making any technical changes to your website as Google may fix this security loophole in their API.


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    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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