On Oct. 21, 2011 Google announced it would begin “enhancing [the] default search experience for signed-in users” by making SSL search the default search for users signed into any Google account, including Gmail and Chrome. This change encrypts search queries on Google’s results page, meaning that visits from organic search listings would no longer include the individual inquiry, but instead would use the term “(not provided)” as the referring keyword for those organic search visits.
Following the announcement Google Software Engineer Matt Cutts ensured marketers that withheld data would remain “in the single digits.” However, a year later, this number has jumped 171 percent, accounting for nearly 40 percent of referring traffic data from organic search. In fact, 64 percent of B-to-B companies see 30 percent to 50 percent of their traffic from Google listed as “(not provided).”
Over the past year, companies have consistently noticed the increase in “(not provided)” terms in their organic referring keyword reports, and I believe this will only continue to increase due to the 250 million Gmail and 200 million Chrome users, many of whom remain signed into their accounts while conducting Google searches. There’s a likelihood that eventually organic referrer data (i.e., search terms) will completely disappear altogether.
It’s no surprise that Google is putting its hammer down on sharing organic search data, but still providing AdWord users with their referral data. As the percentage of “(not provided)” continues to increase, it won’t be surprising if Google begins to offer users an option to pay to get this data back.
Doug Wheeler is the chief marketing officer at Optify, a digital marketing software provider.