A core competency of next-generation marketing platforms like Searchlight is the ability to synthesize relevant insight from multiple highly-variable data sources of ever-changing quality. Nominal changes like Google’s recent proposal are expected by design.
Google’s recent announcement of their near-term plans to encrypt search results for all logged- in users, and consequently strip the search query from the referral string, has raised questions on the future impact to search marketing, and specifically, monitoring natural search traffic. Although a notable announcement, upon closer analysis this change is unlikely to have a major impact on the ability for high traffic sites to accurately model search traffic, or introduce any radical changes in the methodologies or tactics for natural search traffic acquisition. The ability to analyze search engine visibility and track organic and paid rankings will not be impacted.
Low Impact on Overall Search Queries
The most notable point of the upcoming change is the relatively small impact on overall search queries, Google is claiming a “single-digit percentage” as the fully ramped estimate of logged in users. Even if assuming this is a padded-low estimate, the effective change on the distribution of natural search queries to high traffic sites will be effectively insignificant. Further, the “lost visibility” from logged-in queries will not significantly impact the ability to get accurate samplings across all target demographics – individuals will continue to search across a series of browsers, devices, and logged-in states. From a data modeling perspective, search marketers will be losing some fidelity, but search referrals will continue to serve as a robust data source, and will not be severely limited.
Conductor Searchlight Unaffected by SSL Encryption
Conductor will be closely evaluating the impact of these changes as they are rolled out, but Searchlight will not require any significant modifications to data collection, analysis or processing. Searchlight relies on the strength of web analytics platforms for visitor-based data, and this source of data will not be significantly altered – Searchlight evaluates natural search traffic both by query/keyword and landing page. Searchlight’s ability to model Google search results will be unaffected by this change. Additionally, the search results will not be new – Searchlight has more than a year of experience collecting and processing SSL-encrypted search results.
The most notable point of the upcoming change is the relatively small impact on overall search queries, Google is claiming a “single-digit percentage” as the fully ramped estimate of logged in users.
Along with the change to encrypted search results, Google has been enhancing the ranking data in Webmaster Tools, and recently started passing this data to Google Analytics. Conductor continues to assess the Webmaster Tools ranking data, yet the currently provided data sets continue to be too limited to provide practical value for large-scale web properties. The limited refresh rate, restriction to a thousand queries, and the lack of programmatic access, are all notable restrictions that prevent this data from replacing or supplanting traditional rank tracking.
Searchlight Designed With These Changes in Mind
The data sets available to search marketers have historically changed at a relatively rapid pace, and the recent Google announcement will subtly continue this trend. A core competency of next-generation marketing platforms like Searchlight is the ability to synthesize relevant insight from multiple highly-variable data sources of ever-changing quality. Nominal changes like Google’s recent proposal are expected by design.
Conductor never likes to see valuable search data being taken away from search marketers as it can impact their ability to precisely measure and respond to traffic sources. From a search ranking perspective, however, Searchlight will continue to provide you with insight into your natural search visibility.
Stay tuned for ongoing insight into this development.