(Not Provided) – Is This An End To Google’s Search Data?

by | Apr 12, 2018 | blog | 0 comments

In the past month, Google made a change aimed at encrypting all search activity — except for clicks on ads. Google says this has been done to provide “extra protection” for searchers, and the company may be aiming to block NSA spying activity. Possibly, it’s a move to increase ad sales. Or both. Welcome to the confusing world of Google secure search.

Two Years Ago: Secure Searching for Logged-In Users

In October 2011, Google began encrypting searches for anyone who was logged into Google. The reason given was privacy. Google said it wanted to block anyone who might potentially be eavesdropping on a string of searches made by an individual and also prevent the actual search terms themselves from being seen by publishers, as some of them might be too “private” to reveal.

Nearly two years after making one of the biggest changes to secure search that resulted in a steady rise in “(not provided)” data, Google has switched all searches over to encrypted searches using HTTPS. This means no more keyword data will be passed to site owners.

Withheld for Privacy, Despite Deliberate Loopholes

Why did Google break a system that had been in existence even before Google itself? Google said it was done to better protect the privacy of searchers. People might search for sensitive information, so by withholding search terms, Google felt it was preventing any eavesdropping or leakage that might happen.

It’s a good reason, one I agree with in general. But it was also a flawed move, because Google still allows sensitive search terms to potentially leak in three different ways. These are:

  1. Search terms that get suggested by Google Instant autocomplete
  2. Search terms that Google provides to publishers through its Google Webmaster Central service
  3. Search terms that Google continues to transmit across the open web to its advertisers

The latter loophole is especially noteworthy. Google expressly went out of the way to ensure that its advertisers could still receive referrer information the traditional way, with no need to log-in to some closed Google system.

How Does This Affect the Marketing Agencies Today?

Until now, the keyword analytics tool was very beneficial for marketing agencies as the SEO specialists were able to track exactly what and where to invest when it came to keywords but now that has changed for the worse as the transparency has been ended by Google, making the agencies “blind” towards the optimization. We are no more given the information of which keywords have bought us the “leads” on a daily basis. This can hurt a lot of agencies as now; the transition from “stuffing keywords” to actual “content related marketing” needs to be made to stay optimized.

Now: Unlimited, Easy Archiving — for Adwords Accounts

Things changed dramatically at the end of last month. Quietly, Google announced a new “Paid & Organic” report for those with AdWords accounts.

Want to store those search terms Google’s been withholding and dropping out of Google Webmaster Central after 90 days? Just sign-up for AdWords. Allow it to link to your Google Webmaster Central account. It’ll start pulling the search term data out of there constantly.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a paying AdWords customer to do this. You just need an AdWords account. The bad news is that feels wrong that Google is forcing publishers into its ad interface to get information about their “non-paid” listings. It also suggests an attempt to upsell people on the idea of buying AdWords, if they aren’t already.