The End of Organic Keyword Data in Google Analytics

As several sources are reporting today, it appears that the era of Google Secure Search for everyone is upon us. Google seems to have quietly rolled out a broad spectrum update that encrypts all search data earlier today. You can test this for yourself by navigating to the Google homepage or running a search from your browser. Even navigating to http://www.google.com in an incognito or private window renders the secure https://www.google.com page.

The switch-over to secure search will render organic search keyword data moot in Analytics. Some SEOs and webmasters are already reporting (not provided) keyword referrals jumping to 90-95% and even 100% as of Monday morning. What this means for SEO, is that analytics data for organic search is going to become basically non-existent sooner rather than later and it is time for new analytic solutions.

Search Engine Land has posted some speculations on their site and it appears that Google’s official reason behind this change may be the encryption of data to counter the backlash from the recent NSA PRISM program leaks. An official reason that was covered by the Washington Post earlier this month which appears to have silently been put into full effect today.

This comes on the heels of the July update to mobile search, which saw all mobile searches especially those coming from iOS6 rendering as secure. At the time this was a partial solution to an iOS6 bug that resulted in searches made using Apple devices appearing as direct referrals, that lead to an increase in total organic visits in combination with many webmasters seeing Term Not Provided data jumping to 50-60% of total data.

As SearchEngineWatch points out in their article the trend towards full secure search has been a concern since Google first introduced it in May 2010. It became clear that full implementation of secure search was coming sooner than later when the mobile secure search was kept in iOS7. But today’s update, released suddenly and with no fanfare is an unexpected blow, the shockwaves and repercussions of which are only just beginning to be felt.

This is a day expected and dreaded by anyone who uses keyword analytics to help track their business performance. Now that it’s here, it is time for new and in depth ways with which to measure keyword performance.