A couple weeks ago Google told the world about a change they were making for users who were logged in to a Google property. Instead of defaulting these users to the standard Google search, they would now be using a secure search. On the surface, this was done in the name of user privacy. In truth, it does help user privacy somewhat.
There are two major changes to Google search. The first is that the search will be encrypted. This helps privacy because it means that only you and Google will know your search terms. This obviously helps privacy, because if you are on open Wifi, those terms could be grabbed. So, +1 for Google and user privacy.
The other change has less to do with user privacy than it does with Google not wanting to share data. If that logged in user clicks on an Organic link, Google is actively stripping out the search terms as they send the traffic to the receiving site. This is very problematic for all the SEO people out there. If you rely on Google Organic traffic for running a business, you know have less data to know how people are getting to your site. Google will provide you with some aggregate data on how people get to your site, but not details.
Google says that this will only affect less than 10% of overall searches. But for some people, that is a very important 10%. Google is saying that this change is also about user privacy, but it is really about not that at all. It’s about Google not wanting to share data. Note that if that same users clicks on an Ad, then you’ll get the search terms in detail every time. I guess those users’ privacy isn’t as important.
The take away on this is that if you rely on Google for your business, beware. The truth is they are sending you free traffic, and in reality the data they aren’t sharing is their data. So from a purely capitalistic perspective, they’re arent’ being evil. What this does is highlight that Google effective monopoly in search puts thousands of businesses that rely on them at risk when they make any of these changes.
It would be wise where possible to do what you can to start to diversify your inbound traffic as much as possible. That’s not easy, but the next step is Google doing this for ALL Organic searches. So it would be wise to start now.