The Impact is Real: Google’s Encrypted Search

Tom Bright
Internet Marketing Specialist

Google announced this week that they are encrypting searches for users logged in by default. What that means to the SEO industry is that search queries won’t be available for reporting within Google Analytics, nor will they be available from referring search URLs. The data is available at a roll-up level, however term-level detail for visitors to your site that were logged into Google will NOT be available.

Danny Sullivan  over at Search Engine Land reported having spoken with Matt Cutts (Google engineer extraordinaire) and Matt estimates that the overall impact will be in the “single-digit” percentages of all Google searchers.

While this sweeping statement and generalization of impact may give some people a sense of security, I believe we need to stop and give pause to the potential impact to this change.

The vertical you are targeting and your demographic could greatly affect how your data gaps may appear. People in a more technology-driven vertical may see larger gaps, as users in that vertical tend to be the first in adopting a technology or tool like Google+.

The folks at Search Engine People have a great graph of searchers per month that utilize Google: 1 billion. So, we have a baseline estimate.

Google uses a unified log-in. So if you use ANY Google service, such as Google+ or even Gmail, you log in. Out of convenience you stay logged in. Google+ announced it’s at 40 Million users recently. At the end of 2010 Google announced that Gmail (their most-used communcations app) and other business apps are available to 3 Million businesses and 10 million students.  Based on an article last year by the BBC, estimates place Gmail usage at 170 Million  users.

Another part we need to look at is the mobile market. Based on an estimate in July, the overall user estimation is 130M in July with 500K + being activated a day. Every Android phone that searches with Google will be encrypted and their queries will not be available.

Just examining usage from Gmail alone places 17% of that estimated 1 Billion users squarely within the sites of potential “logged” in user accounts. Adding another 130 million users for Mobile, allowing for some overlap, the estimate can easily be well over 20% rather quickly.

If you use Gmail as a business service like we do here at Parallel Path, then you stay logged in all day long. Any time you search for something, no one will know what you searched for. This has huge impact potential for verticals such as B2B or Technology, where potentially large chunks of users use services from Google on a daily basis as a way of life.

Something tells me this “single-digit” exposure Matt Cutts is estimating could be a bit more when you step in and start looking closer by vertical. We will keep you posted on what we notice!

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