Google is now making those who are logged to Google search from a secure connection. As a result, Google Analytics data will suffer.
Google Begins Hiding Information in Google Analytics
OK, you read the title and are probably wondering is this for real? I am sorry to say that yes it is. If you are a non-technical person this topic might seem a tad complicated so I am going to try to simplify it as much as possible.
Google Now Using an Encrypted Connection when Logged In
If you are logged in to a Google account, you will now be pushed to a secure SSL connection when you are doing your searches from Google.com. So while previously you would have gone to http://www.google.com you will now be directed to https://www.google.com. By doing this, Google is now encrypting your search queries and the corresponding search results.
The Effect of the Encryption Protocol SSL
According to Google, “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.”
So to clarify, when someone is logged into Google and performs a search from Google.com, clicks on a search result and then visits your website, you will no longer see the query that brought them in. Instead, you will see that they came from Google as a referring site.
Matt Cutts, head of WebSpam at Google has said that this should not have a massive impact on data, stating that less than 10% of search queries will be affected. Google does offer the alternative option of substituting for webmaster tools search data.
“They can also 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.” – Google Webmaster Blog
Although the webmaster tools search data is of course welcomed, it is nowhere near the quality of data that Google Analytics offers. This data is almost impossible to sort efficiently and is often unreliable, especially in the instance of average position of a page for a keyword – a slightly different subject of course but still worth mentioning.
Referrer Data Will be Blocked Too
Referrer data is based on the number of times one website sends a visitor to another website. According to Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land, “In Google’s new system, referrer data will be blocked. This means site owners will begin to lose valuable data that they depend on to understand how their sites are found through Google. They’ll still be able to tell that someone came from a Google search. They won’t, however, know what that search was.”
Overall, this seems like a step back for Google and the Google Analytics program. They are now intentionally hiding valuable data. What’s interesting is that none of these changes will affect the paid side of Google search. Those using AdWords will still be able to access all data as usual.
As a last point to consider, Google is working hard to generate the master login with Google +. The more people who login to Google + and perform searches, the more valuable search data we loose. So as a result, if the future is bright for Google + (which is debatable) then it is dark for Google Analytics organic search traffic data.
About The Author: John E Lincoln is Director of SEO Consulting and Social at SEO Inc., a 13 year old SEO company known as an innovator in online marketing working with a variety of notable online businesses.