Google recently announced changes which will see them redirect all logged in users to https://www.google.com. The reason given for this change given by Google is that it will make search data more secure for it’s users, ensuring private data remains that way.
From a web analytics point of view the main impact is that no keyword referral data will be passed for organic searches in the above circumstances. Although Google played down the impact, stating that this would affect less than 10% of data, there was much uproar from the whole SEM community (I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many comments on an GA blog post or reaction blog posts), with much of the ire being directed towards what has been dubbed a highly hypocritical move: not applying the same user protection to keyword data for users clicking on AdWords ads. If user data protection is priority number one, then Google should have the courage to stick to it’s principles, especially when money is involved.
The reason for doing this is obvious – a great selling point of advertising through AdWords is the ability to accurately measure ROI and optimize performance at keyword level. To take this away would surely lead to a huge drop in revenue from the cornerstone of Google’s financial strength.
This lack of consistency is at the root of the frustration for the SEO community: by not committing fully to the cause which they give as the reason for the change, it clearly shows that Google is merely paying lip service to need to to show they are serious privacy issues. The move has all the hallmarks of a compromise; finding a middle ground to keep everyone within the Google team happy.
I specifically choose to say ‘reason’ rather than ‘defence’ in previous paragraph – in the big picture this is a positive move as you cannot deny that any move towards increasing the security of data around the web is hugely important. For anyone outside the SEM industry, it would be hard to find any negatives to this change. Ill feeling at this point from a minority voice is surely collateral damage that was expected and accepted before the changes was publicly announced.
With my web analytics hat back in place, I have to draw the conclusion that this change merely pays lip service to the idea that they are prioritizing the protection of user data.
This is a real shame, but I get the impression that no amount of outcry will change the stance Google has taken.
Change happens all the time and at the end of the day the best thing to do is to accept it, adapt and continue to do the best job possible with what data we do have. As Stephen Hawking wisely said “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”.