I Got 99 Problems, but Google Ain’t One

Tuesday morning, Google announced that they were making search more secure. This change has affected Google search data not only for KISSmetrics, but for all web analytics services, including Google Analytics. I’ll fill you in on what’s changed, what it means for reported data and business owners, and how to move forward.

How will this impact analytics data?

Let’s break down Google’s blog posts.

1. Signed-in Google users will be redirected to https://www.google.com

“…we’re enhancing our default search experience for signed-in users. Over the next few weeks, many of you will find yourselves redirected to https://www.google.com (note the extra “s”) when you’re signed in to your Google Account.”

While Google mentioned that this will only affect a “minority of traffic”, I believe that this actually affects a large population due to the prevalence of Google products. I am constantly logged in to my Google account…whether it be using Gmail, Google Docs/Calendar/Reader, Google +, or even YouTube. I can imagine that many small business owners may have a Google business account in addition to a personal account.

So what’s the big deal about changing signed-in searches to https?

2. Signed-in Google user search terms will no longer be available.

“When you search from https://www.google.com, websites you visit from our organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won’t receive information about each individual query.”

KISSmetrics, along with many other analytics solutions, offers search term data so that marketers, product managers, or webmasters can improve their website experience for users. Business owners can tap into keyword data to figure out if certain terms led to increased traffic or conversions. This is no longer possible for users who perform searches while signed into Google.

KISSmetrics will no longer receive search term data from only signed-in Google searches because Google is no longer reporting this data, not even in Google Analytics.

Google's Changes to Web Analytics and Search Terms

KISSmetrics will still be able to report search terms data on users who use other search engines i.e. Bing, Yahoo, Ask, AOL, etc.

Google Search Changes Analytics

KISSmetrics will still be able identify that traffic is coming from Google, but search term data will now be shown as None or Not Provided. Again, this only affects searches that come from signed-in users.

3. Advertiser networks will still be able to see search term data

“If you choose to click on an ad appearing on our search results page, your browser will continue to send the relevant query over the network to enable advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present to you.” 

Google claims that any paid search data (AdWords) is not affected. Google will still report search term data on advertiser networks or Pay Per Click campaigns so you can measure performance for the terms you are paying for.

How will this impact business owners?

These changes undoubtedly make it more difficult for business owners to identify keyword performance or do SEO. Without informed keyword data, it would be hard to figure out what content is driving traffic to your site.

Example:

Let’s say you had a Media business that publishes news, editorials, and blog posts. Your “Ultimate Guide to Analytics” page increases readership by 20% from users who perform a Google Search for “analytics guide”. The same page converts 10% of customers who perform a Google Search for “101 analytics”.

A savvy marketer/product manager/webmaster would want to build a better experience or optimize SEO for that page so that “101 analytics” would also convert nearer to 20% on a Google Search.

But let’s say that Google’s changes were in effect already. Let’s say half of the people who searched for “analytics guide” were signed in their Gmail, effectively blocking that search term data from being reported to you. You as the business owner would now see that “analytics guide” increases readership by 10%…. the same performance as “101 analytics”. You would not even know that you could improve the experience of the “101 analytics” keyword because search term data for “analytics guide” was not available due to signed-in users performing searches.

I Got 99 Problems, But This Ain’t One

Let’s not get hung up on this. Not as much keyword data from Google? No problem! Instead of worrying about the implications, let’s plan on how to take action and move forward.

Google has a temporary solution:

“[Users] can…receive an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to their site for each of the past 30 days through Google Webmaster Tools.”

While this method is not ideal because it is not integrated into analytics funnels or conversion data, there’s at least something we can work with.

Remember, SEO isn’t rocket science. Crafting your content, optimizing your code, and building links are still part of how people find your site. If you’ve been a long-time reader of the KISSmetrics blog, you know we’ve provided you SEO checklists, guides to building SEO-friendly landing pages , and pointers for SEO street smarts.

I don’t know if this change will be permanent or if Google will reverse their decision. I’ll be monitoring the situation and keep you updated. Given this minor setback for all analytics providers, KISSmetrics will continue to provide the best person-based analytics solution for you. No consultants, no 24-hour delays, and reporting that doesn’t suck. You’ll be able to work past this.

You may have 99 problems, but Google ain’t one.

About the Author: Chuck Liu is the Product Marketer at KISSmetrics and cooking enthusiast. When he’s not being a nerd writing about data, he’s in the kitchen whipping up something delicious. He also loves corgis. Follow him on Twitter @chuckjliu.

  1. Can’t say I agree with your analysis here. Does anyone know what percentage of Google search queries are completed from “logged in” users? It seems to me that the only winner here is Google. As a long-time GACP, Adwords Partner, and Google Apps reseller, we’ve been an advocate, supporter and evangelist of all things Google for some time – but this one has us scratching our heads!

  2. I think webmasters should boycott this inadequate decision. Don’t use Google Plus! Monopoly is very bad thing.

  3. While we all will miss such valuable and integrated information in our Analytics software, most search queries will still be accessible.

    Remember that you can still download some top keyword reports from the free Google Webmaster Tools per each one of your sites.

  4. Who honestly searches Google while they happen to be logged in compared to when they’re not? I have a feeling this is Google’s way of keeping more of its data off-limits to software and services that pull from it.

  5. This is one of the bad things that happen when one company dominates the internet so much. I just can’t really understand why Google would bring out something like this. This isn’t good news for those of us with new blogs and websites.

  6. I don’t follow your example. If half the users were logged in and now you only see 10% for “ analytics guide”, don’t you have to assume the same for “101 analytics” – dropping that number to 5%? I’m sure it won’t work out exactly like that. But it’s probably unfair to think that there will be half or one search term because of logged in user and not some very close percentage of logged in users for the other term or terms.

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