So, Google has gone and done it…

We heard on the grapevine a couple of weeks back that there were some ‘goings-on’ within Google around the ever-so helpful (not provided) data, or lack thereof.

In October 2011, Google provided SSL encryption for signed-in searches on Google, meaning that a user’s search term was tracked as (not provided). It was confirmed yesterday by Paul Feng that Google is now extending its efforts to keep search secure by removing the query on ad clicks originating from SSL searches on

Since October 2011, publishers began losing keyword data that was invaluable in seeing how users reached their sites. Google was criticised for this move, as advertisers were still able to receive the keyword data in Search Query Reports. With Google now extending its efforts to keep search data secure, does this level the playing field between publishers and advertisers?

What Google say:

“We’ve long worked to keep your searches on Google secure. We provided SSL encryption for signed-in searches in 2011 and have rolled that out to searches from the omnibox in the Chrome browser. Today, we are extending our efforts to keep search secure by removing the query from the referer on ad clicks originating from SSL searches on

Advertisers will continue to have access to useful data to optimise and improve their campaigns and landing pages. For example, you can access detailed information in the AdWords search terms report and the Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries report.”

My initial thoughts

There seems to be a lot of chatter around this at the moment. How will it affect advertisers and individuals who rely on this data to enhance their campaigns? Will the increase in (not provided) negate the benefit of AdWords? Will advertisers see a drop in quality traffic?

We have seen Google make bold moves before; in 2013 Google switched Google Shopping to a paid platform; Product Listing Ads. Although not affecting the user, advertisers overnight saw their free product feeds turn into a paid-for platform.

This ‘expansion’ could be seen in many lights. Yes it levels the playing field between publisher and advertiser, but I feel this will do more harm than good to the digital industry. At present, we can clearly report back to clients on keyword performance etc. but going forward it will leave us with some rather, shall we say, interesting conversations with clients when asked the question ‘So what keywords are working for us?’. Will we struggle now to fully optimise campaigns with an even greater lack of data from Google? I believe this lack of data will leave advertisers throwing keywords at the wall and sitting back waiting to see which ones stick….. and more importantly, at what cost? Is this another money making exercise by Google, perhaps? Restricting the data available to advertisers leaves them with no option but to open the floodgates and introduce some guess-work. which will surely mean an increase in ad spend.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How will this affect you? Is this the right move by Google?

As more information becomes available I will be updating this post.

Image credit.

Updated – 11/04/2014 12:41pm

The calm after the storm…

As you will have read, both in this post and others, Google caused a bit of a storm earlier this week when they informed us all of their move to secure search to clicks on paid ads. From the off both I, and I’m sure a lot of other search marketers, raised questions over the impact this would have on Bid Management Platforms and the ability to optimise client accounts.

Panic spread as many believed the Search Query Reports were being removed from AdWords, this is not the case. Simply put, advertisers will still have access to the much loved and invaluable SQR in AdWords as per norm, but it is rather that the secure search data will no longer be passed to analytics packages and will be recorded as the ever so informative “(not provided)”.

What we do know is that the “q=search+query” will be dropped from the refer string in the URL supplied to analytics packages (although Google have not mentioned any details around the possible impact on Google Analytics specifically) and bid management platforms and so will be reported as “(not provided)”. In-turn this will lead to an increase in volume of “(not provided)” seen within clicks from paid search avenues. On a positive note, as mentioned earlier, advertisers will still have access to SQRs within AdWords and keyword performance data. Also, bid management platforms with AdWords API access will still be able to automate keyword management.

I had a meeting earlier this week with Paul Korber, Account Director at Marin Software, who seemed un-phased by the then up and coming announcement from Google, as their platform utilises keyword data separately to that from search query data. This was later supported by Marin’s CMO Matt Ackley, who stated “We are aware of reports that Google may cease to provide search query data in the referring URL of paid clicks. If true, it would not be unexpected as the equivalent parameter was removed from organic referrals recently. As an AdWords API partner, Marin Software leverage’s keyword data – separate from search query data – in providing its market-leading analytics, campaign management and optimization capabilities.”

It seems now that Google’s announcement may not perhaps have as big an impact as first thought.

What are your thoughts?