Google has a new search system in place; it’s called Secure Search. Before the new system arrived, Google’s search engine operated in a transparent way. Each time a searcher clicked on a search result, Google let the website know what search term the user used to find the website. But those days are gone, under the new Secure Search system, users search on a secure and encrypted https:// version of Google. When a searcher clicks on his search results, he is only taken to the website through a redirect. The website is given no information about what search term was used.
It may be comforting for Internet users to know that they are able to search anonymously but for website administrators and SEO professionals trying to study their traffic to figure out how they are doing, the change makes life difficult. Secure Search only hides organic search engine clicks. AdWords advertisers can still see the search terms used by visitors arriving through AdWords clicks.
What does Secure Search mean for search engine optimizers?
With Secure Search, website administrators have no idea what search terms visitors use to arrive at their website. If you are a retail website with products to sell, you can no longer find out what search term got you a sale so that you can target the term with new website content.
Since you are no longer able to optimize your website to the keywords your core customers use, your website may begin to show up to searchers whom you don’t wish to target. Your bounce rate can go up as a result.
You won’t be able to study the search terms that visitors arrive at your website by and correlate them with the pages on your website that they hit. As a result, you won’t be able to figure out what your visitors are looking for and then make changes on your website in response. Overall, both Google searchers and websites that depend on Google are likely to have a worse time finding one other.
What can you do to plug this new hole in your data?
If you are a website administrator, you can use one of several workarounds to get some of the information that Google now denies you.
You can look at analytics from other search engines: While Google still has two-thirds of the search market, other players aren’t entirely insignificant. Microsoft’s Bing has about 17% of the market. If Google won’t tell you what search terms your visitors use, Bing will. The search terms that people use on Bing to arrive at your website should be more or less the same as what they use on Google.
You can turn to Google Webmaster Tools: Google Webmaster Tools does not encrypt search information. You just need to sign up for Google Webmaster Tools, go to Search Traffic and then Search Queries. The downside to using Google Webmaster Tools is that you don’t get too many filters to analyze your data and you only get to see information for the preceding 90 days. You can work around the 90-day problem by saving your Google Webmaster Tools data once a month so that you build up your own long-term history.
Google Webmaster Tools vs. Google Analytics
Google Webmaster Tools is better than Google Analytics in one way. Google Analytics only gives you insights into what search terms people use ahead of clicking on your website. It doesn’t give you impression information – information about what search terms people use to simply see your website on their search results (even if they don’t actually click on your website’s name on the search results). Google Webmaster Tools, though, gives you impression information.
You can use Google AdWords: Setting up an AdWords advertising account will allow you to see what search terms people use to be served your advertisements. This information can be useful in a limited way. You can also use Google’s Keyword Planner to determine estimated search volumes and click data.
You can consider hiring a professional marketing consultant: Professional marketers who have learned how to judge website and search engine behavior for years are in a better position to help websites find their way in these uncertain times. You can look around for good Internet marketing professionals to help you.
Where to from here?
Google’s Secure Search encryption is now a permanent feature. Other search engines like Bing may make the switch soon, too. SEO professionals simply need to learn new techniques to make up for the missing information.
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About the Author:
Eric Bryant is a business owner who has embraced the world of marketing. An avid blogger, he likes to share what he learns with others by posting on the Web.