Big blow for web analytics: Google search is going secure and along the way hiding all referrer data
Google search is currently in the process of beta testing a secure search, check it out yourself at https://www.google.com.
Even though this might be commendable from a privacy perspective, the move could potentially have devastating effects for all search marketers and online analysts. Turning the normal Google search results into secure pages will essentially hide all usage information including the referrer string which contains data on the used search term. So if you would like to know what keywords are driving your business, you’re out of luck. For all secure searches, standard analytics software packages will no longer be able to see the what domain referred the visitor (i.e. search engine) and what search term was used (see screen shots below).
It’s rumoured that China may be part of the motivation for the switch as this will prevent filtering of certain keyword searches as well as the ability to packet sniff the usage of Google. The switch hasn’t rolled out in Hong Kong yet, but you can safely assume it won’t be too far away!
For more information check out the following Google and Wired articles.
About the author Hamish Ogilvy