Encrypted Google Only Sends Referral Data for Ads, Not Organic Searches

But Google says Webmaster Tools should provide all the info you'll ever need

Google has announced that it will start sending some of its users to the encrypted version of its search engine. This page uses SSL to encrypt all data from the user to the Google servers, a boon for privacy in some cases and a move in the right direction.

But the change also means that websites will no longer get the full Google query URL sent to them when a user lands on one of their pages via an organic Google search.

Which means no or impartial referral data and, some are quick to say, the death of SEO.

That's not really the case though. It is true that organic searches via the encrypted Google won't contain query data. But Google says that much of this data will still be available in Webmaster Tools, which is now integrated into Analytics, so websites shouldn't lose out on too much info.

At the same time, Google ensures websites that, as long as they pay for advertising, they'll get all the same data just as before. This is the part that has most people up in arms and probably for good reason.

Technically the browser is the one that sends the referral data and browsers don't send the full URL when switching from a secured website, via HTTPS, to an unsecured one, over the regular HTTP.

But there are ways of getting around this, for example redirecting users via a non-secure Google page and then to the website they're trying to reach. This is the way Facebook does it and it's probably the way Google does it for paid search results, aka ads.

Granted, this would add a performance penalty and using the HTTPS version of Google is already slowing the site down a bit, but most people would probably not even notice.

Of course, Google is just beginning to transition people over the encrypted version and may change its mind in the future. For now, it recommends people use Webmaster Tools for the info they need. Or, of course, they can always pay for ads.

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