Google Search Over Secure Socket Layer

We just went back to play Pacman and were shocked to find it wasn’t there. And then we spotted a little padlock and our interest was piqued.

Have you seen SSL search yet?


SSL search basically grants you another level of privacy and security. This is what it does:

  • SSL encrypts the connection between your computer and the Google servers, making it much harder for third parties to intercept and read any transmissions between the two devices.
  • SSL turns off your referrer information on your browser, meaning you provide less information to the destination sites you visit. In this particular instance, it means that the destination site cannot customize pages based according to the searches you performed. However, it can still customize information based on your browser cookies.

Google says that you may find SSL search a little slower as your browser attempts to make a secure connection. It is also worth noting that if you are logged in to your Google account searches you make will still show up in your web history, as that data is compiled against Google’s own webserver logs, rather than a cookie on your site. Google builds it’s user profile based on the requests of it’s server matched against your login information.

If you want to find out more technical infomation about the security features, checkout their help guide on SSL search. Otherwise, to get started on searching over a secure connection simply add an ‘S’ after the HTTP in your browser address bar.

For example, when you visit Google normally, on an unsecured connection, your would type in:

Now, to search over a secure connection your would type: (changes in bold)

The major downside of SSL search for webmasters is that important referrer information that can be used for marketing, such as keyword data, will not get passed to your analytics program. These visits will most likely show up as direct or referrer *not set*.

If you experience a spike in traffic in this type of referrer let us know.

In context, whilst Google has been bombarded with negative press around privacy recently, namely WiFi data collection via Streetview, trading ethics violations and another class action, to Google’s credit, offering this service is among a set of best practices around online privacy.

At least you now have a choice about what level of security you require. And it definitely makes your data a little less vulnerable when searching the web over open public wifi connections.

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