In November, we reported that Microsoft was looking into switching their search traffic into encrypted SSL search. And it looks as if that might be becoming a reality now.
Currently, the Bing encrypted search seems to be completely optional, and they don’t seem to be promoting their encrypted search at this time.
Doing searches on Bing takes you to the unencrypted http://www.bing.com and not the https:// version. And then clicking through to the organic search results links, it is still a direct link, and it’s not routing through a secure server from that point either.
Using secure search doesn’t seem to be an option when you’re logged into your Microsoft accounts at this time. When logged in, it still uses the http:// Bing search by default, not the encrypted one. And when checking in your Microsoft account settings, there isn’t an option to change your account to only use the secure search when logged in nor is there any reference to a secure search at all.
Search Engine Watch asked a Microsoft spokesperson about the changes and whether webmasters would see anything change, including in Bing Webmaster Tools, to ensure webmasters can have some sort of keyword data, if everything goes to a “(not provided)” state.
“At this time we are still evolving our rollout of HTTPS at Bing. As we continue to develop our implementation, we will keep the SEO/SEM community needs top of mind and balance them with consumer privacy and security concerns.”
Losing keyword referral data will be a blow to webmasters. Although Bing generally accounts for a small percentage of overall U.S. search traffic (18.1 percent, according to comScore, it was still useful for webmasters wanting specific keywords beyond what Google offered through Webmaster Tools. Hopefully Bing will offer some enhanced keyword information through Bing Webmaster tools to compensate for lack of referrals.
Bing also powers Yahoo search, so it will be interesting to see how Yahoo implements their search when Bing goes fully encrypted. Yahoo said last November that they would be encrypting their searches by Q1 of 2014, as part of their move to encrypt all their data, such as the encryption with Yahoo Mail that just went live last week. So there’s a possibility that Bing is making the change because Yahoo had set a Q1 deadline for the switch to secure search on their properties.
There isn’t yet any word about how encrypted search might affect advertisers. With Google, AdWords advertisers still get their keyword referral data, although webmasters via organic traffic don’t get those keywords. Bing should follow suit and pass the referral data to advertisers, otherwise it could lead to many advertisers being reluctant to use Bing Ads because of the missing referral information and being unable to see which keywords are converting.
As for the “evolving rollout”, it definitely seems to be on the slow side. Only users that are aware that https://www.bing.com is now active would be using it, especially since it was not working previously. I suspect we’ll likely see encrypted search first rolled out first to users who are logged into their Microsoft account, similarly to how we saw it rolled out by Google.