Why Google’s announcement of fully encrypted search doesn’t matter for analytics

Google finally announced what we all knew was coming sooner or later: all search is now encrypted — and the kicker for those of us in the online business is that we’ll never again receive information about which keywords searchers used to land on our site (from Google, at any rate).

(Backstory: when you search on Google, the search terms are part of the URL of the results page. When clicking on search results, your browser normally sends the URL of the page you were on along with your request to the server of the page you’re visiting. Except for when browsing over HTTPS: here, the browser does not send this critical – and sometimes sensitive – information to the server of the page you’re about to see. This referrer information was the basis of keyword metrics to determine which keywords bring in the most visitors to individual pages on your site.)

But, honestly, despite the fact that the web is now full of people griping about this change, it actually doesn’t matter. Google’s announcement is nothing more than a formality. Have a look below to see why:

Plot of encrypted (keyword

Plot of encrypted (keyword “not provided”) searches vs all search traffic in general.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out: encrypted search traffic has already been the defacto case. Google’s announcement is nothing more than a formality; the death knell for keyword analytics tolled a long time ago. There’s nothing left to lament.

The chart above was actually produced yesterday (before Google even made its announcement!), as I was wondering to which content the few remaining non-encrypted searches were biased/skewed towards. What’s more, the percentage of keyword-not-provided searches is probably **understated** in the chart, as the “all searches” graph includes non-Google search engines like Bing, which are less likely to be encrypting their users’ searches.

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