Google stated that it will be encrypting the search query data for users signed into their Google accounts in an attempt to secure private information. Users who are not signed into their accounts can access the secure search feature by going to https://www.google.com. This means that when users visit websites through a Google search result their browser will no longer provide the keyword they used to the site owner – a major hindrance to many forms of Internet marketing. In a time when many businesses use the internet as the backbone of their marketing campaigns, the removal of this kind of valuable data could seriously affect the entire search engine optimization (SEO) industry as well as individual businesses that rely on search engine referral data to customize landing pages for users. Consumers are used to being able to search for an online coupon site and almost instantly receive customized results from the top sites. Google’s new policy could result in degradation to the user experience, though most searchers likely wouldn’t recognize the cause. Some have begun pointing out that this could drive businesses to invest more into pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, diverting funds from SEO.
Proposed Benefits to Users
The central theme of the change seems to be providing users with a more secure search experience. When users search via an unencrypted connection, their search terms could conceivably be intercepted by someone on the same network or even someone elsewhere on the Internet who’s trying to snoop on Google’s users. Some of this information is undoubtedly sensitive and is best kept private. By encrypting search traffic, Google can help ensure that this information is only ever passed between the user and Google. Unless, of course, the user clicks on an ad on the search results page.
How it Affects PPC
Advertisers on Google’s AdSense network will still be provided all of the same keyword data for their advertising campaigns. While keyword terms won’t be passed to sites accessed through organic results, those who pay Google (making up most of the search engine’s revenue) will still be allowed access to detailed keyword reports. Some have said that this is due to Google’s desire to push companies out of paying for SEO and into paying more for PPC, eliminating the gaming of Google’s algorithm while increasing profits. It’s unlikely that Google is attempting to eliminate good SEO, though it does seem as though the company favors keyword-targeted ads over keyword-specific SEO campaigns.
What it Means for SEO
The reduction in available data for SEO purposes will likely not have an immediate, dramatic impact on the industry. Because only 1% of users will be affected at first it’s probably that keyword reporting data will merely experience a slight amount of obfuscation. As more searchers sign up for Google accounts, however, the precision of keyword-level SEO campaigns will be diminished, likely causing fledgling SEO companies to lose skittish clients to the more detailed analyses of PPC.