This guest post is by Oz of OzSoapbox.
Secure Sockets Layer (or SSL to you and me) is an encryption standard most of us are familiar with using whenever we do something over the Internet that needs enhanced security.
Whether it be banking, email, signing into a personal account, purchasing something, or any one of the dozens of things we do online daily with the potential to have our private data compromised, most Internet users are familiar with that little padlock symbol that appears every time we use SSL.
How SSL affects blog owners
In a recent update on their official search blog, Google has outlined plans to apply SSL to user search queries. Under the guise of privacy, Google claims that the addition of SSL will:
recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver.
Increased privacy is all very well, but what will that mean for your blog?
Previously an opt-in option, it’s important to note that Google’s implementation of SSL in performed searches at this stage will only affect logged in users. That is, people with a Google Account who are logged intot hat account while searching.
So what kind of affected traffic are we talking about here?
Google’s Matt Cuts (head of web spam) told Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief at Search Engine Land, that he “estimated even at full roll-out, this would still be in the single-digit percentages of all Google searchers on Google.com.”
Less than 10% of Google search users have a Google Account? I can’t help but seriously question that.
Between Gmail, iGoogle, YouTube, and more recently Google+ (over 40 million at last count and climbing), pretty much anyone who uses a Google product has an account and, more than likely, will be signed in. Is this SSL implementation really only going to affect less than 10% of internet searches?
Leaving that doubt aside for a second, let’s get back to the question at hand: again, what does all of this mean for your blog?
The one thing you, the problogger, needs to take away from all this is that if you’re tracking your users via keywords (that is, seeing which keywords bring in the most traffic), the accuracy of your stats is going to take a massive hit.
Once Google flip the switch on SSL searches, logged in Google Account users who wind up your site via Google will no longer be passing on any keyword referral information.
In an industry where even a few percentage points can result in massive changes to SEO campaigns and blog content strategies, losing up to 10% of your keyword referral data is huge!
And you don’t need me to tell you how important traffic monitoring tools like Google Analytics are in managing and analysing your blog.
What can you do?
As a blog owner, what can you do about these upcoming SSL changes?
Unfortunately for now, not much.
Google seem to have made a final decision on this and will implement SSL searches for logged in Google Accounts over the coming weeks. Interestingly enough, despite Google citing increased privacy reasons as the backbone of their decision, keyword referral data will still be available to advertisers.
It appears that while your privacy is seemingly important to Google, it’s not important enough to cut off your search queries from advertisers’ prying eyes.
As a blog owners, all we can do for now is sit back and take the hit. A monthly report (30 days) of the top search queries that brought traffic to your site will be made available via Google Webmaster tools, but it’s a far cry from the level of data analysis most blog owners are used to.
That’s even more of an issue when you consider there’s only so much you can do with WebMaster Tools when compared to proper traffic analysis tools like Google Analytics.
Looking at the long-term effects here, if SSL encryption doesn’t cause any hiccups for logged-in users, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before it’s implemented permanently for every search Google processes.
Google themselves are clearly hinting at this on their own blog;
We hope that today’s move to increase the privacy and security of your web searches is only the next step in a broader industry effort to employ SSL encryption more widely and effectively.
What appears to be shaping up is a future divide between the needs of blog owners and the financial relationship between advertisers and search engines. And we all know who’s going to win that battle.
As blog owners, do we have a right to demand keyword referral information from the visitors browsing our blogs? Or, as the value of this referral information is slowly quantified and sold to advertisers, is it only a matter of time before we too will have to start paying for the stats we need to run our blogs as best we can?
Updated daily, OzSoapbox is a blog cataloguing life in Taiwan, the good times and the bad. Interrupted only by social commentary on current events facing Taiwan, feel free to drop on by and join Oz on his journey through this beautiful island.