Edinburgh Web Development

Has Google ruined Analytics?

Keyword search analytics disappear

by Iain Wilson

4 October 2013
Google Analytics

Something significant happened with Google Analytics at the end of last month.

More accurately, something significant happened with Google organic search last month.  They changed the way search activity is handled across the internet, changing it from 'clear text' to encrypted text.  

Do a Google search now and you will see the little padlock on your browser screen indicating the encryption (using SSL).

Great, you might think, because from a security point of view, it means that people couldn't 'snoop' on search activity.

Thing is, when the searches are encrypted, the Google Analytics web stats facility can't see what the search terms were and therefore won't report the keywords people are using to access your website.

They've have been encrypting searches from people logged into Google since 2011, and these would appear as 'Not provided' entries in your keywords analysis.

Matt Cutts of Google was quoted back then as saying the proportion of encrypted searches like this would be around 10%.

This looks like they are going to do it for ALL searches now (i.e. 100%).  If that is what transpires, you will not be able to see keyword search analytics.

Why?

Why would they do this?  Google say they are simply bringing more protection to users (yawn), but a few other suggestions have been put forward:

  • It's related to the US NSA security thing.  Google have attracted flak for allegedly providing data to the security services.  The encryption will somehow protect them.
  • They want to make the keyword data, or maybe the entire Google Analytics, a chargeable service.
  • They want to increase AdWords sales.  The AdWords pay-per-click service will continue to collect keyword data, so if you are paying for search, you will see the data.
  • They want to nullify some of the small search startups like DuckDuckGo, who already provide an encrypted service.

What to do?

This is a moving issue and it doesn't look like it's finalised yet, but if Google continue with this, it looks like your keyword analytics will disappear.  That is a major loss to any marketing department and without question diminishes the value of Google Analytics.

If it happens, it would be an opportunity for an alternative and no doubt there are clever people waiting in the wings to grab it.

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