Google Referrals To Get Even More Mysterious

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Last fall, Google launched encrypted search (via SSL) as the default setting for signed in users, expanding the feature to the worldwide level earlier this month. The amount of encrypted searches may soon go up .

Webmasters, SEOs and marketers haven't been entirely thrilled with the whole thing, because with the encrypted search, much of the Google referral data in Google Analytics is now marked as "not provided". WebProNews talked to several SEO professionals about the changes last fall, who expressed their discontent:

Christopher Soghoian at the blog Slight Paranoia figured this out, then Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land received a statement from Johnathan Nightingale, the Director of Firefox Engineering, who said that Mozilla is testing using the SSL for built-in Google searches, and that if no issues are uncovered, it will ship to all Firefox users (after going through Aurora and Beta channels). That would include non-English versions of Firefox too, by the way.

This is particularly significant given that Google and Mozilla recently renewed their deal to keep Google the default search in Firefox.

If the encrypted search was turned on by default for searches performed from the Firefox search box, the number of "not provided" referrals would be increased by a tremendous amount, given the popularity fo the browser. Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable makes the point that they could easily add this to Chrome at some point as well. And why wouldn't they, if they feel that this is the search experience that is best for users? Given all the privacy concerns that are always circulating around Google's practices, this is one area, where they could make people feel easier, even if SEOs, webmasters and marketers aren't huge fans.

There could be potential issues with Internet Explorer as well, if users set their default search to Google, which given Google's share of the search market, it is highly likely that many will still do.

The point is, for those keeping up with their analytics, those Google referrals might even become more mysterious if encrypted search is expanded across the browser level, which it appears is about to happen with Firefox.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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