Google has quietly begun to roll out SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption for all searches, which means that brands, marketers, and website owners will no longer be able to see what keywords are driving Google organic search volume to their website. In the imminent future, all organic search traffic coming from Google will be reported as “(not provided).”
The idea of missing keyword search data is nothing new. While it has not impacted paid search data, encrypted search has been reporting organic search traffic for visitors signed into Google as “(not provided)” since 2011.
However losing Google’s keyword-level reporting will have a significant impact on how organic search performance is tracked, optimized, and analyzed. The implications for marketers are several; including potential increases in paid search spend with Google, a required use of Google Webmaster Tools and Google paid search data, as well as comparing organic keyword data from other search engines to monitor keyword-level traffic performance.
If you visit NotProvidedCount.com, which monitors the % of “(not provided)” keyword data across 60 websites, you can see a recent significant increase. Throughout the end of August, less than 50% of search traffic was reported as “(not provided),” but throughout September it has increased to roughly 73% of Google search traffic missing keyword data. According to the current growth rate, the site estimates that all keyword-level data will be gone by December 11th of this year.
While this last move by Google introduces new obstacles in monitoring search engine optimization performance, it supports the importance of integrating both paid and organic search metrics while taking a more holistic approach to organic search performance. Read our complete POV: Google’s Move Towards 100% Encrypted Search.