If you are an SEO guy trying to get your pages found near the top of the major search engines, it’s important to know what search terms users are searching on which took them to your page. This “search referral” is passed by the search engine to the site as part of the process, and web geeks use these as part of their Google Analytics arsenal of weapons to help get their stuff found. About a year back, Google as part of its constant campaign to secure the “privacy” interests of its searchers (no really!), Google moved the goalposts. If a searcher is logged on from any kind of Google application like GMail or YouTube then Google encrypted the referring search term leaving webmasters scratching their heads for a good percentage of all traffic from Google. The exception was for paid clicks where the end user clicked on any Google ad and the Webmaster still received the referring info. At the time they first rolled this out I noted that it was perhaps a tad disingenuous to encrypt some search terms but not others, surely if the issue really is privacy then a click is a click.
Roll forward to present day and the transition is complete. Irrespective of whether you are logged into a Google site or not, Google no longer passes the referring search term to the poor bloody SEO guys. From now on in, if you are running a site and you want to find out what search terms are bringing users to you, you will either have to pay for the premium Google Analytics tools package or buy clicks through Google’s various advertising options. This problem doesn’t apply to the other search engines… only Google cares this much about your “privacy”.
I appreciate that this is mind wrenchingly tedious to the average web user. But seen in the wider context where Google is still trying to maintain its hard earned cute and friendly façade, it’s pretty telling. Put simply… if you want to play with Google there is a price for everything.