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Estimate the impact of recent Google http > https change for logged in users on your search keywords.

Step 1. Open Google Analytics (or any tool you have access to).

Step 2: Go to Traffic Source > Sources > Search > Organic

Step 3: Change the Date Range (top right) to Oct 19th - Oct 20th (yes real time! :).

Step 4: Look for a keyword called: (not provided)

Step 5: Compare the total Visits (in the scorecard under the word Explorer on top) with the Visits you see in the row called (not provided).

Step 6: Use your own data, rather than FUD to: A. Worry a lot. B. Not worry at all. C. Wonder if you are suddenly hungry.

Screenshot for my blog attached.

#datadrivenfreakingout :)

PS: You should be able to do this with every web analytics tools including the main ones like Omniture, WebTrends, Yahoo! Web Analytics, CoreMetrics, Baidu Analytics et al.

PPS: Inspired by Thomas's comment below I've created a special custom report in Google Analytics that you can use to keep track of the impact of this change over time. Log into Google Analytics first, then click on this link to download the report: http://goo.gl/UuKY0
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54 comments
 
To be fair, the http > https change is only rolled out on google.com - so the change is likely to be significantly higher when reaching other google properties.
 
+Thomas Høgenhaven Fantastic point. So you do want to wait and see how the numbers change and evolve. You could postpone the choice between freaking out or not until that time. :)

I am not implying what the number should be or that you should freak or not. I just want you to react to your own data.

You can get a clue now, and then check again over time.
 
Avinash, we shall see how much this will be. But for sites with large volum of data something like 10-20% is a lot. Morevoer, the growth of google plus will increase this percentage and will make this decision worst.

I believe Google took an awful decision and betrate his own principles. I thought google encouraged companies to deep into data to take relevant decisions and now sllightly start taking it away from us.

Disappointing.
 
+Avinash Kaushik Agreed that there is no need to freak out (at least not before checking web analytics :) Just wanted to raise the point that it's a bit early to make relevant evaluations - especially for all of us based in Europe.

Also, the effect might not be super visible as it's the long tail key words we'll miss out on, which are far down the keyword list anyways.
 
+Avinash Kaushik With all due respect, I take offence to the tone of Step 6. This change is going to affect everyone differently. Some companies will not notice any changes and some will definitely loose money.....some a lot of money.

I respect that as a private company Google can do what ever it wants with its URLs. But to see a representative act like this is disheartening. This is the type of arrogance that so many of us outside of the valley have been sick of for years. Sad to see it creep up in this debate....from folks that work with the "little guys" regularly.
 
+Joe Hall I appreciate your feedback Joe. Thank you.

My overall hope was to provide guidance on how to get data to then decide if you should worry or not worry. I'm sorry you were upset.
 
Hey +Avinash Kaushik instead of being sorry that +Joe Hall was upset why not apologize and retract your insulting comment?

Furthermore, do you really expect us to believe that Google will stop at logged in users? Once the outrage over this change dies down, Google will roll out the change for users that aren't logged in again using the obviously hollow justification that they're looking out for the user's privacy.
 
+Benjamin Cook I'm afraid my area of expertise does now allow me to opine on what Google will do.

But whatever happens you can run a quick report (above) and figure out, today and over time, the impact of those decisions by Google (or anyone else).
 
+Avinash Kaushik I really think the search industry should start churning out politicians because few are able to avoid actually addressing the issue as well as certain public faces...

Your response didn't really address the main point of my comment. Your "apology" actually implies that +Joe Hall was wrong for being upset and that you are sorry he reacted that way to a perfectly acceptable comment. Personally I'd respect a "sorry, I was wrong to be so glib about a serious issue" much more than the response you gave.

It might be semantics but when people are upset, your choice of words matters.
 
On the plus side, this is the first time I've used Google + in weeks so I guess that's something :D
 
+Benjamin Cook I stand by the thread, and trying to add a little fun. I do enough publicly to know that different people will react differently. I am genuinely sorry that Joe was upset. He seems like a wonderful person, I look forward to bumping into him at a search conference or event in the near future.

I also appreciate your feedback. Thank you.
 
Not only does +Benjamin Cook work for free, but he also allows 3rd party companies to profit off his product. A true inspiration to us all. Thank you, sir.
 
+Connor Tubridy Searches happen on google.com. You can be logged into your Google account in many different Google properties. But if you are logged in when you visit google.com then you'll be using https and it is at that search where these recent changes will have an impact.

Look at the top right on any google.com page to check if you are logged in or not. And click on your name/photo to sign out.

Hope this helps.
 
thx Avinash, 8 out of 16000 not provided, so i dont care about https change anymore (at least for some time) :-)
 
Did it. Overall visits up 7% over comparable period. Our best organic brand keyword, which rarely fluctuates, is down 3%. I choose option A.

Matt Cutts said single digit % of lost keywords. Confirmed. For now. Of course if Google+ takes off then that gets bad. Google+ = logged in.
 
Hi Avinash;
Also did it. For Fotonatura.org with 60% of organic search is 0,14%. In Aena-aeropuertos.es, huge site serving 48 airports in Spain, 0,64% organic search is 32% of trafic. For me is option B
See you next week in Madrid!!
 
Does this apply to those that come in via a mobile platform? We have clients that have around 20% of mobile traffic. Suppose about a third of these are on Android and use the Google search widget. Sorry, not a technically minded so not sure if the https applies here
 
Thank you, +Avinash Kaushik. This does help. I still wish there was parity with PPC reports/data, but I can understand how Google would be dedicated to serving its PPC customers ahead of organic marketers and webmasters. You have to keep the lights on, right?
 
In my case, a client's website is only 0,10% is the keyword traffic :)

However, this is growing up and when Google+ become more popular the number could be greater :(
 
+Thomas Bright Thanks for sharing your post Thomas. The nice thing is that thanks to our web analytics tools (all of them) we can collectively keep a close eye on the numbers and their evolution.

To help with, just for you (!), that I've created a custom report you can download into your Google Analytics account by clicking here: http://goo.gl/UuKY0

Over time keep an eye on two things: The pie chart on top left (for context) and Visits. I've also included Unique Visitors and Goal Completions for additional context.
 
+Avinash Kaushik - So what you're telling us is: "Google Plus is not going to work, so don't worry about people being logged on all the time, your keywords are safe."
Do you know anything that Steve Jegge doesn't already know? :-)
 
+Marco Bortolotti Very sweet of you to try, but I am going to stay away from your comment. :)

I want you to decide what to do and what the impact is on your business based on your data. I'm trying hard to make it ever more easy for you to get the data you need to make a smart decision - whatever that decision is.
 
I did check my own data this morning, and unsurprisingly, the effect was somewhere between minimal to invisible.

However, I still label the http > https change as an 'important though not urgent' issue. Right now it isn't important, but it is something worth keeping an eye on, especially if G+ actually takes off in the mainstream through sign ups and integration of other Google products.
 
you've become the enemy...Google
 
For one of Indian Sites I know:
Source: Google, Medium: Organic --> For 20th Visits 2,233 / 238,260 = 0.94%
Very low percentage - may be because it doesn't seems to be rolled out on google.co.in.
 
+Avinash Kaushik If we all thought Google was going to stop at logged in users on Google.com, we might not be so upset. I think we see the what's coming and the blog post itself tells us it's coming; "We hope to see similar action from other websites" presumably means that Google would like to see it rolled out beyond Google.com and beyond logged in users, eventually. The reason we're screaming so loudly is that we want to make it very clear now, before this happens, that we don't want it.

For my thoughts in detail, including a short, relevant video interview with you from an SES last year, please see http://bit.ly/oVISbY.
 
+Alan Perkins As someone whose life is consumed by helping making people do smarter digital marketing through data I can assure you that I am immensely cognizant of not having data.

I believe that we will continue to have a lot of data to make smarter decisions about all forms of digital advertising (search, affiliates, email, social, display etc).
 
I have read a lots of about it, but I can't uderstand, how will be more secure? And before 18th October search query wasn't secure then what happened in the past?
 
Mukesh, it's not that Search was insecure, it just was unencrypted by default.. In theory activity on such pages are vulnerable to eavesdropping. When encrypted, such possibilities are much smaller.
 
+Mukesh Kumar if you read my post at http://bit.ly/oVISbY you'll see three different referrers for the same search results page on the same landing page. In one of the three cases the query keywords have been removed from the referrer, and this is the new behaviour.

Google's claimed reason for doing this is that when a user is looking at your Web page, the keywords they searched Google to find your Web page are available through the HTTP referrer to, as +Alex Brasil says, eavesdroppers. In making the keywords unavailable to eavesdroppers, Google has also made them unavailable to you too.

Technically, by making its search results https, Google has encrypted the URL of its results so the query (including the keywords it contains) is no longer available to eavesdroppers in that way. But that URL would still be available via the referrer field of the HTTP header (see http://www.w3.org/Protocols/HTTP/HTRQ_Headers.html) if the searcher clicked a link to your Web site. So Google removes the keywords from the referrer so that those keywords can't be eavesdropped.

So, putting as positive a spin on this as a I can, you might say Google is merely trying to protect its searchers from themselves, if those searchers are stupid enough to search for highly sensitive keywords in highly insecure locations. But other things about the Google announcement and its implementation suggest that there's more to it, and that denying keyword data to site owners is a deliberate outcome rather than an unfortunate consequence.
 
Cool as ever - I like the tranquility and philosophy with which you confront changing times. If time has come to pay for services which otherwise were free, maybe it is about time we take less things for granted.
 
+patrick dh if time has come to pay for services which otherwise were free, then maybe

1) Site owners could be given enough respect to be told this straight, rather than having it dressed up as something else and/or
2) Site owners should be recompensed for providing the content that Google's entire service is built on - I view providing the keyword data in the HTTP referrer as part of the "payment" that already exists, as it helps site owners to make their sites better.
 
Alan, note that I have literally 0 internal insight into the impetus for the change (though I have my theories). I will state that I do not think denying keyword data to site owners was a deliberate action. I do think there is some benefit to Google for not allowing that data to be sent through that go beyond user security, but I don't think that site owners are the target. I'm not really sure what purported benefit Google would gain from removing this data from site owners as a whole. Do you have a particular benefit in mind?
 
Hi Alex - I think Google intends to ultimately deny all keyword data to site owners, and then sell it back to them, possibly by insisting on a paid implementation or paid component of Google Analytics.

That may seem far-fetched but here are the things that don't stack up, which lead me to this conclusion:

1) paying advertisers get to see keyword data with the new implementation, even if they are promoting a HTTP site, because (and this is quite galling) it "enables advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present to you"
2) organic HTTPS sites don't get to see keyword data with the new implementation, even though they don't make the referrer available

Taking the above two points together: if you pay Google you will be provided the data you need to improve your Web site, even if it compromises searchers' security, but if you don't pay Google you won't be provided with that data, even if your site does not compromise searchers' security

There is a third point:

3) keyword data, rather than personalisation data, is stripped from the referring URL when the purported reason for stripping data is "As search becomes an increasingly customized experience, we recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver"

If that's the case, why not remove the personalised part and leave ONLY the keywords in the referrer? My answer: because the keywords are the valuable part ...
 
Without trying to be offensive, I don't think it's far fetched, I think it's preposterous.

I think you're also confused a bit on how this works. By default, HTTPS strips the referrer when moving to a non-encrypted URL. Google is actually taking an active step to allow it to pass in PPC clicks, and the reasons for this are obvious, if not a bit self serving and questionable from a security perspective.

Let me reiterate that point. If you operate a web property that uses SSL on some pages, say a bank, and non-SSL pages, say, a bank's non-sensitive information, you will run into the same issue when your customers move from the secure portion of the page into the insecure portion.

See 15.1.3 Encoding Sensitive Information in URI's of http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2616#section-15.1.3 for clarification.

I can say with full certainty, without any inside information, that that is absolutely not the path/reason for this change.
 
Hi Alex

No offence taken at all. Clearly you are entitled to your opinion and I respect it in the spirit of healthy debate. :)

> I think you're also confused a bit on how this works.

I think not. Suppose a searcher is on https://www.google.com/ and clicks a link to visit https://www.mysite.com/. Even though they have gone from a https site to a https site, their referrer will be stripped. Why is it stripped, especially when Google's older encrypted search service, https://encrypted.google.com/, does not strip the referrer in this scenario? (For more details on this please read the section titled "Google Encrypted Search Ironically Not So Encrypted?" in this article: http://searchengineland.com/google-to-begin-encrypting-searches-outbound-clicks-by-default-97435)

> Let me reiterate that point. If you operate a web property that uses SSL on some pages, say a bank, and non-SSL pages, say, a bank's non-sensitive information, you will run into the same issue when your customers move from the secure portion of the page into the insecure portion.

Yes, I fully understand that thanks. But it wasn't the scenario I was describing. I was describing moving from a secure Google search results page to a secure Web site. The referrer is still stripped in this secure scenario, even though it is not stripped in the insecure scenario of a searcher clicking on an ad. This seems hypocritical if Google is concerned about searchers' privacy, as it claims.

> I can say with full certainty, without any inside information, that that is absolutely not the path/reason for this change.

OK, clearly you are privy to more information than me. Please can you answer if possible, as it would be really useful to know:

1) Whether this change will ever be rolled out beyond logged in searchers to all searchers on Google.com and, if not, why not?
2) Whether this change will ever be rolled out beyond Google.com to all Google search properties, e.g. Google.co.uk, and, if not, why not?
3) Why keywords are stripped and lots of personalised data remains, rather than stripping the personalised data and leaving the keywords?
4) Why keywords are stripped even when going to a secure site, when https://encrypted.google.com/ does not behave like this.
 
Great post Avinash and great comments that came through by folks following. Lot's of passion for analytics. This was a great read. Technology is changing...the digital world is evolving and we'll need to adapt to these changes, good or bad.

Cheers

 
Thanks +Avinash Kaushik. I appreciate your sound wisdom. What bothers me about all of this is that if this truly is a privacy issue, doesn't this mean that Google is now SELLING private user data?

If I can only get the data by running AdWords, Google's "Don't be evil" slogan no longer applies. Despite the fact that the percentage of "(not provided)" keywords is small (so far), it's the principal behind this change that I think has everyone in an uproar. I won't run AdWords campaigns just to get keyword data. That feels wrong on so many levels. I see this change as only penalizing white-hat SEOs (and business owners), rather than actually protecting anyone's privacy. We all know that reason doesn't hold water.

I think Google needs to look at the bigger picture here, which is a massive loss in confidence and trust from a large portion of their biggest supporters.
 
I've been testing and come to the conclusion that opposite to common believe (not provided) is given only when the user was searching using https://
I've searched (being logged) and (not provided) appears only if I use https.
Do you guys agree?

If that were the case, I wouldn't mind Google's move: If I explicitly ask for HTTPS protocol and then search, or use an anonimizer, or use the browsers "private browsing" feature, it's okay with me that analytics doesn't get the keywords.
Now, having said that, if Google, just for the fact of being logged in is hiding my keywords to sell some sort of information to premium GA users, then I'd start thinking seriously about not evangelizing GA anymore.

As a content provider, I'd like to know who gets to my site "hiding keywords". Maybe I'd decide to hide some content, too.
 
Great post, and great comments. Thank's everyone who shared your hard-earned perspectives on Analytics! +Kimberly Nichols , you have a fantastic point. Pushing more and more towards the ad program.

QUESTION: Would you pay for Analytics with complete keyword data?
 
+Avinash Kaushik - Thanks for such insightful details through G+ and your blog , data we recive through Google Webmaster have difference as compare to Analytics data specilly search Query . So how much relevant or accurate it is to find few of the (Not Provided) queries with the help of Google Web Master account ?
 
Hi +Avinash Kaushik,
you started off this thread a while ago. After nearly six months, (not provided) keywords on my blog have reached a neat 40% of all searches. That's a little annoying, isn't it?

My blog is about web marketing, so I know that many people getting there do have a G+ profile and are constantly logged into some Google service. Still, other sites are getting nearly 5% of not provided visits, and the number is growing.

That's far from the "little or no impact (not provided) keyword should have" according to Google. Is it the same for you guys as well?
 
14,52% (of organic search visits) in my case
What's bothering is that -- because it gathers lots of different original queries into one -- it is always there on the first place, ten times more important than the following keyword.
 
My Web Marketing Blog counts 49,56% of "not provided" organic search visits. I guess it's because most people that are interested in web marketing are constantly logged on Google. Still, it's a huge amount of waste.
I'm trying to guess what people are looking for analyzing landing pages and Webmaster.Tools data.
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