SSL Google won’t be sending you queries

In a fairly unexpected report, Google have announced that SSL will be enabled for a number of users by default. Along with GMail, secured by default last year, and Twitter and Facebook providing secure versions as an option, Google will be introducing secure searches to users over the coming weeks.

Google have provided a secure search at for a while, more information on it is provided in their help, but it ensures that no third-party can see your searches.

It also means that webmasters will not receive the query that the user has searched for. This was done by parsing the referer* in the HTTP request. For example, url= was the url clicked on, the q= represented the query, and cd= as the position the link was in. An example script, in PHP, can be found on this site; but could apply on any landing page in any language.

This is a major blow to webmaster who use this data to analyse keywords; and it will break those sites that automatically generate content based on your search query. This was often used for analysis – but also for link farms and advertising sites for gathering keyword information and misleading users. This hopefully will reduce some of the link farms that use this technique; but some webmasters do use this to highlight search terms on the landing page.

So what does this mean? Webmasters will still know users came from Google, but not any of the information about the search. Users who encrypt their search will not be passing on their keyword terms via the HTTP header.

You can however, receive a list of the top 1,000 search queries through Google Webmaster Tools, and presumably will still continue to receive keyword and other information from Google Analytics.

The official announcement can be found on the Official Google Blog.

* referer is spelt here with one ‘R’ as defined in the HTTP spec.


Google Analytics Update

If you’re anything like us, at times you can be obsessive about the visitors on your site. As most of our customers know, we love the features that Google Analytics provides, and along with other tools can be a great asset to SEO.

In the last few days, Google have updated their Analytics interface again, including a set of new reports that show exactly what’s happening on your site; live.

New real-time interface for Google Analytics
New real-time interface for Google Analytics

As Google explain, this is a boon for those who use social media to promote new products or blog posts (such as ourselves):

One way that I like to use these reports is to measure the immediate impact of social media. Whenever we put out a new blog post, we also send out a tweet. With Real-Time, I can see the immediate impact to my site traffic.

For example, last week we posted about the latest episode of Web Analytics TV and also tweeted about the post. By campaign tagging the links we shared, we could see how much traffic each channel is driving to the blog as it happened. We could also see when we stopped receiving visits from the tweet, which helps know when to reengage.

There’s a whole host of other tips for the new interface on Google’s Analytics Blog. To sign up to the new site; you can sign up for early access on their website.

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