Search Marketing

What Google’s Latest Privacy Update Means for Paid Search

April 11, 2014

In the coming weeks, Google will roll out an update as part of its ongoing efforts to support user privacy. Following initial coverage from the wider digital marketing community (you might have seen some press coverage about it), Google released a formal statement this week reassuring advertisers that they “will continue to have access to useful data to optimize and improve their campaigns and landing pages.”

One of the biggest headlines you might have seen was that the Google PPC’s move to SSL will lead to the loss of all keyword data in third-party digital media platforms – but this is not accurate. The bottom line is that while some data will be lost, marketers will continue to be able to measure the performance of their campaigns at the keyword-level.

This post outlines our understanding of the update, based on ongoing conversations with our partners at Google.

What is happening?

If you work in the SEO space, you are likely aware of past updates around search encryption and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) that have been rolling out since 2011. These updates have largely removed SEO’s ability to pull keyword-level performance data. [You can read more about this on the 360i blog.]

This latest update from Google affects the paid search side of the spectrum, and will block third-party platforms from pulling in search query data from Google search results (i.e. the actual search term that triggers the paid search keyword) as well as disallow the ability to tie this data to conversions. In short, Google is removing the “q=” value from the search URL and will not pass this on to the website after a click – which is the same case for SEO.

However, keyword-level paid search data will still be passed on to third-party tracking tools through the {KW} and {Match Type} value track parameters, and they will still be able to marry this data with search engine metrics such as impressions, clicks and cost via the Google API.

What will NOT be affected:

  • KW-level data from the normal tracking parameters will still be fully available in third-party tools
  • AdWords SQRs and conversion data
  • Dynamic Search Ads or Dynamic KW Insertion

What will be affected:

  • Any KW mining tools that automate the build-out of KWs from search query reports
  • Search query reports within third-party tools will no longer be possible at the individual click log level. Aggregated multi-click conversion data will still be available.
  • Customized landing pages that are dynamic to the search query

Next Steps:

  • We recommend that marketers request confirmation from their onsite analytics platforms as to how this may affect customized paid search tracking. Note: changes may need to be made to URL query strings.
  • 360i will work closely with paid search management platforms to ensure tracking and optimization processes are uninterrupted for our clients.

As Google continues its efforts to keep searches “secure” – across both paid and natural search listings – marketers will need to adapt their processes accordingly. While the updates will require some proactive shuffling on the part of advertisers, Google maintains that the crucial data needed to optimize campaigns will still be available, and that “this is the right path forward for the security of users searching on”