Encrypted Search

Encrypted search is a way to use the Google search engine without your searches being tracked.

Anonymous search

You can do Google searches anonymously with encrypted search. This means that your search requests are not passed to the analysis service, Google Analytics. How Google encrypted search works is explained in this YouTube video. Encrypted search is based on SSL encryption. Other parts of the search are handled through a protected site https:// so that no information can be passed on.

Development of encrypted search

On October 18, 2011, Google announced that the service would end keyword tracking step by step. Initially, only logged-in users, who were searching via Google’s American version, google.com were affected by this change. Search queries of those users were henceforth no longer tracked. In Google Analytics, they appeared as (not provided). This regulation was finally tightened and since November 2013 the German version of the search engine is now handled with encrypted search as well.

Criticism

As a general rule, Google’s strengthening of data protection is a praiseworthy intent. However, there is criticism that Google still provides this data to Google’s AdWords clients, i.e. advertisers. This raises the suspicion that there are other motives behind the expansion of encrypted search in reality. It is assumed that Google itself would have to face revenue losses if it would remove the information from AdWords because the advertisers could no longer target their advertising campaigns as well. Google will only earn on these ads if users actually click on them. Therefore, targeted campaign booking is essential for Google as well.

Relevance to search engine optimization

The data which is obfuscated by using the encrypted search was hitherto an essential part of search engine optimization. The number of search terms that get passed to Google Analytics which were searched by search engine users are falling steadily. The proportion of non-tracked searches is now at around 70 percent. In the field of SEO, this means that it is impossible to evaluate the organic traffic. Thus, it is no longer possible to find out which organic keywords convert in what way.

In the United States, data from other search engines such as Bing, Yahoo or AOL are utilized as an alternative to Google Analytics. However, this method is very risky and not very promising for Germany. The SERPs partially differ enormously from the Google search results. Moreover, these alternative search engines are not a good representative source which could be proportionately applied to Google due to their low usage. This method can therefore serve only as an orientation at the most for German search engine optimization. Due to the loss of data, the fundamental strategies of SEO are increasingly becoming more important again.

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