Google encrypts all its searches — why, and what does it mean?

google encrypts its searches

Google has been shaking up the world of search in unprecedented ways recently. Hummingbird, Google’s new “conversational search” algorithm, has been well publicized, and the reasons behind it are clear and sensible. A less publicized but equally impactful change has only been news in search engine circles, and the motivation behind it is not as clear. Google now encrypts all searches.

Why encrypt searches?

In 2011, Google said that they were encrypting searches to protect user privacy, but this only applied to users logged into Google. In the two years following this first level of encryption, the percentage of encrypted searches has slowly increased, but this recent switch to 100% encryption is sudden.

Blocking NSA snooping is a possible motivation for this sudden change. Google has received much criticism for alleged cooperation with the NSA and has since been campaigning hard for permission to expose the details about spying requests from the NSA. If this is the reason it could be a genuine attempt to keep the data private, or it could be image maintenance for Google to keep users from fleeing to smaller, but more private search providers.

Boosting Ad sales, both cynical and sensible, this purposed reason could have prompted the change without any influence from the NSA scandal. While search terms are not broadcast, Google is still storing them, and they are still available through Google’s ad system. How much of this data is available, and for how far into the past, is currently in flux but hard numbers should be available soon.

What does this mean? In simple terms, it means that the words used for a search that led to a specific website are no longer visible for that site’s webmaster, or anyone keen on collecting data. For years, these terms have been used to analyze the effectiveness of search engine optimization efforts, important tools for marketers and advertisers. However, this has had a tendency to stifle creativity, because more attention has been given to finding the right keywords in the search data, rather than creating compelling content.

There is a silver lining here. The loss of access to this keyword data, combined with Hummingbird’s de-emphasis of those keywords, means that quality content and compelling websites are back in style, so use this to your advantage by contacting Flagstone Search Marketing today.

photo credit: {platinum} via photopin cc

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