Search Marketing

Yahoo Follows Google’s Move to Encrypted Search

January 23, 2014

Yahoo has made secure search its default setting for all users, meaning that marketers monitoring referral traffic via the engines will experience even greater keyword data loss in their SEO reporting.

Earlier this fall, we reported on Google’s move to 100 percent secure search – a significant update in the SEO space considering Google’s dominance when it comes to market share. As we anticipated, Yahoo has followed suit, further reducing the information available to marketers when it comes to optimizing their sites for natural search.

Now, when a user conducts a search within Yahoo and clicks through to an organic SERP, the webmaster of that page will not receive keyword-level data indicating how the searcher arrived there – if the site is not secure. (A secure site is denoted as ‘HTTPS’ versus the standard HTTP.)

As such, Yahoo’s position on secure search is slightly different than Google’s. As reported by Search Engine Roundtable, Google wipes out all data “even if the searcher is going from HTTPS to HTTPS, i.e. from Google to your secure site.” On the contrary, Yahoo is providing referral and query data to webmasters of secure sites.

Bing is currently the only member of the ‘Big Three’ that has not yet made SSL the default setting for searchers— but it does seem to be moving in that direction. Just last week, Bing made SSL an option for searchers, meaning that people can choose to use the HTTPS version of Bing to encrypt their keyword data from webmasters.

What does this all mean? While this movement indeed marks a major shift for our industry, it’s important to understand that it has in no way diminished the overall efficacy of natural search as a channel. People are still arriving at websites via natural search – but the challenge becomes evolving analytics to optimize while now absent of this keyword-level data.

In the past, keyword data provided valuable insight into how consumers discover and engage with a brand’s products and services. Without this keyword-level granularity, marketers have lost a tangible means to better understand their customers, and evaluate how well they perform in delivering against those needs.

Fortunately, marketers can still gain insight into this valuable pool of consumer intent by combining various remaining data sources. That being said, brands’ marketing and analytics teams should likely revisit how their Web Analytics tools (such as Coremetrics, SiteCat and Google Analytics) are configured to deal with these referral changes, as some reports might become skewed.

Equally, this shift means that marketers should shift their focus towards higher order objectives that put the consumer at the center of search strategy through content, user engagement and conversion optimization.

Mike Dobbs, Group SEO Director at 360i, contributed to this report.

Cover photo via CNET