A big announcement by the Google Search team has made on the 18th of October 2011: Google is breaking the web.
Well, the announcement wasn't exactly this; but by reporting that a signed-in user once visiting your site from an organic Google search, will continue to be recognized as a Google “organic” visitor but without passing the query terms, I bet you will agree with my initial statement.
Let's go back for a while to see what’s changing.
Secure Search, introduced as an experiment in May 2010, in the next weeks will become the default experience for signed in users on Google.com.
This means once you sign in to your Google Account, Google will encrypt your search queries and Google’s results page.
And that's when the problem will arise. When you search from https://www.google.com, websites you visit from the organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won't receive information about each individual query. In other words, a rectified referrer without the searched keyword will be passed to the site.
In the name of the hypocrisy
Everywhere on their blogs, Google declared they made this to protect your privacy. But is this really true? Of course NOT!!
PPC managers will continue to see the whole bucket of precious information.
So where is this privacy concept Google is talking about? I can only see a very simple concept: if you pay, you can walk away with data. And … ops … this is a total different story, with a much clear objective that is not connected at all with privacy.
What should we (SEO) report to customers now?
Google still has all your search data, but it's just not allowing website owners to see it anymore. As they said, they are giving website owners aggregated data through Google Webmaster Tools.
Unfortunately, having aggregated data (top 1000 queries) is comfort-less as in more than an occasion SEOers all over the world reported how info provided are shoddy.
So, what's next? I am afraid, but there is nothing apart than a “(not provided)” tag that has been specifically created to address this new change within Organic Search Traffic Keyword reporting. And the problem is not only with Google Analytics, but with all web analytic packages in general.
This represents also a major drag for all those integrated agencies, which life is now more complicated when deciding the amount of budget to move from PPC to SEO and vice versa.
Why they made our life more complicate?
What is the reason for taking the keywords off from the referral? I tried to go over the first post appeared on the net and to think about it from a different angle, but it has been time wasted.
I doubt Google really want to make SEOers life complicate; after all, Google is not making money with us (Uh-uh … I said it again). But what they want is making the life of their competitor much more complicate.
That's the biggest reason. Try to imagine to all the systems around the web that will be affected by this change, with analytic packages as the first element of the chain.
You can argue that this change has affected also Google Analytics, their product, so they are all on the same boat. But product like Omniture, Web Trends and so on, doesn't have direct access to Google Webmaster Tools. This means that those users will be - at least in the first period - out of the game.
And what about those re-targeting platforms? I’m not an expert on the mechanisms used by the latter, but without this precious information, I dare them to continue to work properly.
Also, it would be interesting understanding why not all the sites seem to be affected by their new change. Have a look at this screenshot I took yesterday: http://screencast.com/t/896gC03vZ2
Total lack of respect (for the poor SEOers)
In the past, big changes with an high impact like this were somehow anticipated, argued … perhaps rectified assuming huge concerns from the communit, lastly - in the worse case scenario - an alternative solution offered for the sake of the web community.
Today, Google rolled over this change with NO NOTICE. One day and the game was over.
This is absolutely arrogant and it lacks of respect toward all non-paid search professionals (read it SEO) and their customers.
Now, all we need is Matt Cutts and the SEO-aware Googlers to hits the media trying to say how good it is for users, how small the impact really will be, etc. That would be very funny.