Google is making search more secure, and what you can do about it

Posted by: 

Nestor Archival, Senior Consultant

Last October, Google announced that it is making SSL the default search setting for users signed in to their Google Accounts. This change encrypts logged-in users’ search terms, effectively stripping them from the referrer information that is part of the request sent to the destination site.


This development will impact most, if not all web analytics users as this prevents your analytics tool from gathering search query data from logged-in users of Google Search. It is important to note, however, that referrer-based reports will still recognize Google as a referrer in the instances discussed above.


So, where do you go from here? I have outlined five steps that should get you in the right path below:


1. Find out what your vendor is doing about it. Inquire from Support, or send a note to your account representative. Or better yet, monitor company blogs and look for official statements reacting to the announcement. Here are some helpful blog posts from some of the vendors out there:

Google Analytics
Adobe SiteCatalyst
IBM NetInsight
Webtrends Analytics

2. Quantify the effects of the change. Utilize your tool to capture the percentage of search visits that had a blank “q” value in the Google search referrer. How does this relate to the overall Google referrer traffic, and your overall site traffic? At the very least, compare the ratio of visits with a Google keyword to visits coming from Google in general before and after the announcement.

3. Annotate keyword-related analyses appropriately. This is a rather major development and it can have a big impact on your search keyword-based reports and analyses. Add it as a bullet point and discuss its effects on the reports.

4. Examine top search queries from Google Webmaster Tools. Google Webmaster Tools provides an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drive traffic to your site for each of the past 30 days. This data can supplement your analytics search reports and can potentially identifies the gaps brought about by the recent developments.

5. Work with your favorite Stratigent consultant to implement interim solutions. So, your Channel Manager plugin for SiteCatalyst cannot properly recognize the affected Google referrers? No problem, we can adjust the code so that it will correctly place them in the right channel. Do you want us to walk you through integrating Google Webmaster Tools with your Google Analytics account so that you can view and analyze the top search queries right from GA? Yes, we can show you how and help you analyze the data. Ask us and we will work with you on implementing a relevant solution!