Google Search Change Impacts Analytics Data

10/26/2011

- Danielle Leitch, EVP

Google made a recent change to their search results and protocol, which is a major adjustment to those who rely upon Analytics data. This affects all analytics platforms, not just Google Analytics.

Last week Google announced they would now use “https” or a secured server as the default for anyone searching while logged into a Google account (this includes Gmail, Google+, Adwords, etc.). In the past, those logged in, as well as those who were not, all used the “http” or non-secured server.

How or why does this change impact my website and data? Using secured search will eliminate passing certain data from the Engine to the tracking platform. As a result, the search query is not able to be passed through or revealed within Analytics. If someone is logged into a Google account, their search term will not be provided in your analytics for any Organic searches. If the searcher is not logged in to Google, you will see search term data for organic.

For Paid Search or Google Adwords traffic (anywhere you can manually tag the URL), you will continue to see the search term in your analytics data whether the user is logged into a Google account or not. This is a result of the query parameters added to the URLs which pass along that information for reporting.

This change to Google is being rolled out over the next few weeks, so if you don’t see “https://” in the browser bar while logged in, it’s coming. On the other hand, particularly for those who use Google analytics, you will start to see data underneath the Organic traffic source displayed as “Not Provided” in place of the actual Search Query. In those cases, you will know that the user was logged in while searching to arrive at your site.

The screenshot below is from Google Analytics and shows how the data is now being classified within the Search Query report, for users logged-in using Organic Search as the Medium.

analytics data

This is a huge blow to the Analytics industry across the board, as it impacts every platform. If Google can not pass that information now, none of the providers will be able to display organic search queries for users logged in. With the rising popularity of Google+ and Gmail, and its frequent use by accountholders, many people remain logged in while online. This loss of insight and intelligence is detrimental to any marketer who measures SEO activity and web traffic.

As a Google Analytics Certified Partner, we will remain vigilant on monitoring this change and its impact to the web marketer. Although it’s already announced and rolling out, Google has been known to adjust things, especially when there is outcry from the public. I would urge you to be vocal online and in community forums/social networks, if you don’t want to lose this important data.

Privacy is of the utmost concern for most web users, but this recent measure may have gone too far by eliminating such valuable marketing intelligence and insight.

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