Several months ago Google made a change to their default search experience on google.com — when you’re signed into Google, they add SSL encryption to increase the privacy and security of your web searches. Now Google are expanding this protection, so over the next few weeks they will begin introducing SSL search beyond google.com to their local domains around the globe.
This is relatively bad news for anyone working in the SEO field, as it means that there will be fewer keywords being passed through to analytics. Right now the (not provided) keywords accounts for about 20% of search. With this change it is expected that this will increase to around 50% of all searches.
SEO professionals rely on this data to see where the traffic is coming from, and what the user is looking for. If you are a plumbing supplies company, and people come to your site looking for a local plumber, you need to work on your optimisation. I am pretty sure that even Google, with their focus on relevance, would agree with that.
This is a painful change for SEO for a few reasons, as you can imagine. Without knowing what keywords are converting, and which keywords are bouncing, it is going to be difficult to optimise a website around the better kewords. Right now Google does provide some query data through its webmaster tools, which has now been incorporated into Analytics. However, this data is up to 2 days delayed, and is not nearly as complete as the data we were getting.
For those that think this will push customers to Adwords, a) this is about optimising websites, and people are not now going to start paying for clicks if they were not before and b) The bigger the website, the more it would rely on SEO AND Adwords c) the data is there, and you can get a good idea for what people are searching for, it is just not complete.
The issue I have is that the data is incomplete and not nearly as flexible, which makes me think Google is punishing a large section of the web development/seo community for the sake of a small amount of security. If you wanted to get all conspiratorial, you could say that Google is actually doing this to make it harder for spammers/sploggers who use this data to make websites just for the traffic.