Google announced yesterday a major change to the way signed-in users, i.e. those logged in with a Google account, will search within Google.
The short version is that “many” signed-in users will be redirected to the secure (SSL) version of Google, i.e. https.
Google have offered privacy and security concerns as the driver behind this.
One of the consequences from this is that these search queries will no longer be available to those of us who use services such as Google Analytics in order to see what keywords are driving traffic to a site.
As with most things to do with Google, this already appears to have stirred up a hornet’s nest with lots of those involved in the SEO industry appearing to be ‘up in arms’ over this. See this summary in Search Engine Land as an example: Reactions From SEOs Come Loud, Fast and Often Angry to Google’s Switch to Encrypted Search.
For my part, I’d rather wait and see ‘how bad’ the outcome is before tearing Google apart. One aspect that caught my eye in Google’s announcement was the reference to “…default search experience…“. I wouldn’t pretend for one moment that most users will turn off the default but I’d rather keep my powder to dry to see how this develops in practice.
Of course, Google have said that those search queries resulting from a click on a paid ad (AdWords) will still be seen. To me, this seems perfectly fair. If you are paying for advertising in AdWords, you should have complete visibility over where your money is going.
With the rest, I always try to remind myself who the service belongs to and the fact that these services are free to use (Search, Analytics, Webmaster Tools etc.). We are very fortunate that so much data is provided for free. I’m never going to be Google’s biggest fan but I do know whose toys I’m playing with!
Google’s announcement in full: Making search more secure.
(221011 update) Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz has released this ‘emergency whiteboard Friday’ video: