May 18 2012

Will Google (Not Provided) spell doom for web analytics?

Posted by Shu Neng , , ,

What it was before

All along, webpage owners can easily gather data on how visitors “land” on their pages, with all the data from searches being sent to them. For example, you would like to search on “cheap air tickets”.

The URL for the page with the search results would appear like this:

The search terms used in the query is being embedded in the URL of the page. This is known as the referrer URL. When you click on one of the search results (non-sponsered links), the URL above would be sent. The owner of the page would be able to use his/her own web analytics tool to figure out that you have arrived on their page by doing a search on google with the keywords “cheap air ticket”.

Google (Not Provided), What’s that?

As quoted by google, “As search becomes an increasingly customized experience, we recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver.” Google is working towards making searches more secure, by using SSL encryption protocol security standards. So, what does this actually means?

For users signed in to their google account, they will find themselves being redirected to . All searches queries would then be encrypted.

So what does it mean by having all your search queries encrypted?

Using the previous example, when searching on the keywords “cheap air tickets”, the portion highlighted above would not be shown anymore. Web analytic tools would no longer be able to track the searched terms which lead to people ending up on their webpage.

What does this mean for web analytics?

With these measures in place, we will see the following changes:Organic clicks sources will now all only be identified as coming from Google. With these measures in place, we will see the following changes:

  • 1.  Organic clicks sources will now all only be identified as coming from Google
  • 2.  The query strings of the searches done which lead to the organic clicks will no longer be displayed. Instead, when doing Organic Search Traffic Keyword reporting, the token from the organic click will thus be identified as “not provided”

However, clicks to your sites via the paid search advertisements will still show the search query string via the referrer.

When site owner view their statistic of their pages, the origin of a significant amount of the traffic to the site cannot be traced. It would be reflected as “not provided” as highlighted above. Crucial data on the keywords searched which lead them to the site cannot be obtained, leaving it difficult to determine which keywords used are the most effective in attracting visitors to the site.

Why Worry?

Most people will log in to their Google accounts to check mail or use any other Google-related services. They usually will remain logged in for the entire time they are online, hence their searches done would then be done on Google’s secured site. This would mean that web analytic tools would capture a high percentage of users landing on the site with details “not provided”. This new measure would mainly affect how we do SEO, since search marketers rely heavily on information gathered to target specific keywords to use to get their site ranked. As such, will Google (Not Provided) paralyze search marketers? What can search marketers do to overcome this? Check back soon for further insights on how to avoid a Google (Not Provided) doomsday.

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