Keyword lockdown? Google rolls out encrypted secure search

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UPDATE 25 September 2013: Since this post was published, it can be confirmed that this rollout has happened in Australia.

It hasn’t made the front page news, but it’s certainly front page material for us. Today, Google begins its rollout of encrypted secure search for all users.

Say what?

Let’s backtrack. Previously, Google gave people the option to have their search data encrypted if they were logged into their Google accounts, or if they searched for anything via the Chrome omnibox. These keywords came up on Analytics as (not provided), meaning they were pretty much inaccessible – except through Webmaster Tools or Adwords.

Almost two years later, Google has chosen to make all searches encrypted in the United States, which means that keyword data (and life) as we know it no longer exists…

Google search

But why would Google do such a thing? The reasoning behind encrypted secure search

Unfortunately, none of us possess Matt Cutts’ brain so we can’t tell you with 100% certainty what the reason is for this rollout. However, there are a number of factors that come into play – it could be any or all of these three:

  • Controversy over data given to the NSA: In June, news surfaced which linked top tech companies of providing the United States National Security Agency’s with direct access to data for their PRISM spying program. Google, Apple, and Facebook were a few of the companies allegedly involved, which caused great concern over Google users’ privacy. Rolling out secure searches means Google can reassure users that their information is safe.
  • Privacy as a factor in general: More and more, our information is being stored online: what purchases we make, what hobbies we are interested in, what we search for, and so forth. With so much data available digitally, there’s an increasing pressure on companies to protect the information of its users. Google’s shift to secure search is a natural progression in this path to user privacy and protection.
  • AdWords: Ah, the elephant in the room. Google still provides keywords through Google Adwords – a tool that attracts millions of advertisers. However, unlike traditional keyword data, these are only available to those who actually use the product, and using the product means monetary spend. At the end of the day, Google is still a commercial company that needs to make money. This shift could be another way for Google to encourage more companies to use Adwords.
  • What does Google secure search mean for businesses?

    In short, there will be a shift in the way keyword data is gathered and analysed, and also around what businesses prioritise in their digital strategy.

    “With the demise of keyword data, we anticipate a growing importance of landing page quality versus conversion statistics as opposed to entrance keywords driving conversions,” says John den Haan, our Head of SEO.

    “What this means for businesses is that they will need to focus more on individual user satisfaction: providing quality content to capture and convert a broad customer base at the landing page level.”

    Essentially, it goes back to what Google has been stressing all along: quality, quality, and more quality.

    It’s not a done deal yet…

    Through all of this, it’s important to remember that this rollout has only officially happened in the United States and information is scarce on whether this will be a global action. For the moment, it’s just important to keep your ears open and eyes peeled for any information that comes out in the coming weeks.

    However, this reminds us all that in the world of SEO and Google, it’s important to be on top of the game, otherwise you’ll get left behind.

    It’s survival of the fittest at its finest.

    How do you think Google secure search will affect businesses?