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Impact of Google Search's SSL Change

Posted on 11.09.2011

The encryption standard SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) should be familiar to digital workers, particuarly Internet retailers. Whenever private data is in play - whether via banking, shopping, or even sharing information - SSL will make an appearance.

SSL in fact has become a core encryption technology on the Web in the past five years. Google has, in good form I believe, largely encouraged SSL use on its own services, including within Gmail and in January 2010's release of an encrypted search service. Google is not the only big data company leveraging SSL - Facebook and Twitter have also shown the love for SSL in recent months.

In its pursuit of protecting user privacy however, Google has made it much harder for digital marketers to access keyword referral information. Google announced last month that it will be applying SSL to search queries and that has caused quite a bit of blowback from the SEO community.

What the development means is that if you are tracking keyword usage data - this also applies to the providers of search marketing software solutions - then the referral information received won't be nearly as accurate. Google has indicated that at least ten percent of its traffic will be using its encrypted search (available when users are logged into their Google account) but many estimate that the number will be much, much higher over time.

While there are reports containing keyword referral information available within Google Webmaster Tools, they are too infrequently updated - with only a 30 day refresh of the data - to help strategists compete in a digital age when freshness matters almost as much authority.

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