In 2011, Google made a change to the way in which they report keyword referral data. While Google had historically provided us with all the data relating to which keywords had caused visitors to arrive at our sites, increasing pressure to improve privacy led them to obscure increasing amounts of this data for users that made use of secure search.
Initially only data from users who were logged into their Google+ accounts would have query data obscured, however as time went on, a number of the most popular browsers began using encrypted search by default; first FireFox fell, then Chrome.
Over time the percentage of data obscured by Google has been rising. Google initially forecast it would level out at around 10%, however as the push for privacy continued, this figure blasted through the 10% estimate and was averaging around 50% in the last week of August.
Starting mid-September however, Google has made a much more aggressive move to ‘secure’ the majority of search queries. FirstClick has conducted analysis across our client base that has revealed a 48% increase in the ratio of Not Provided data when comparing the last week of August to the 4th Week of September.
Looking at data client wide data for the 23rd of September we are now seeing about 78% of all organic search queries are obscured.
FirstClick believes that in a very short period of time all referring keyword data will be obscured by Google which will have an impact on reporting and KPI setting. FirstClick has, for some time, been exploring a number of other options for measuring non-brand traffic which will be discussed with our clients in the coming week.
Google has made no comment on the rapid increase of Not Provided traffic this week.