The day many SEO professionals hoped would never come, but feared eventually would, apparently has arrived today. It appears that Google has cut off keyword data altogether.
Nearly two years after making one of the biggest changes to secure search that resulted in a steady rise in "(not provided)" data, Google has switched all searches over to encrypted searches using HTTPS. This means no more keyword data will be passed to site owners.
Encrypted Google searches don't pass the keyword data through to websites, thereby eliminating the ability to track users by their keyword searches. The biggest impact for many site owners has been not being able to segment users by keywords within their web analytics software.
To publish any intention of Google's motives for this move would be pure speculation. Not wanting to feed the rumor mill or feed any false speculation, Search Engine Watch has reached out to Google for a comment.
"We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year," a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Watch. "We’re now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in."
When encrypted search initially launched in May 2010, Google initially had encrypted search on a separate URL. A year later, in late 2011, Google started redirecting all U.S. users who were signed into their Google Accounts to the encrypted version at https://google.com. This led to the now-infamous "(not provided)" row in keywords data in Google Analytics and other web traffic software packages.
When questioned, Cutts was quick to respond that it was estimated that the amount of "(not provided)" visits "even at full roll-out ... would still be in the single-digit percentages of all Google searchers on Google.com."
Just last month, BrightEdge released a study fining the percentage of "(not provided)" data was over 50 percent for some industries.
There are methods around determining "(not provided)" data via Webmaster Tools. While the method isn't fullproof, it can be useful to determine trends.
At this point, it seems even when you aren't logged in, using private browsing (or incognito mode) and forcibly type HTTP://www.google.com, you are being redirected to the HTTPS version, thereby encrypting your search and no doubt leading to a total removal of keyword data – at least from Google search visitors. Remember, keyword data from other search engines – like Bing, for example – still send keyword data through.
If you're a practitioner, how will you be adjusting your strategies and practices? How will you begin the conversation with your clients? Sound off in the comments. We'll have reactions and more coverage as this story develops.