Fellow SEO fanatic and fiancé Brian Brown, director of product management at Covario, was the inspiration for this post. One of our many SEO over dinner conversations.

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “Google’s Secure Search Squeezes SEO Planning and Reporting.”

Google’s secure SSL search protects users’ search results and the keywords they searched on. Unfortunately, it also poses a growing threat to data-driven search engine optimization. Firefox recently joined Google Chrome — and Google.com, for logged-in users — in defaulting to secure search. This has the side effect of increasing the number of “Not Available” or “Not Provided” search keywords in web analytics reports.

In the past, SSL search was too slow and cumbersome to use as a default. Web analytics programs could easily pick out most of the keywords that referred traffic to the site from Google.com. Today, with SSL search the default on Google.com for logged in users as well as the default on Chrome and Firefox browsers, a growing number of Google.com referral strings are coming into web analytics with no keyword information associated. Consequently, if a site optimizes a page for a certain keyword phrase, its ability to measure how many organic searches were referred from Google via that keyword phrase is diminished.

Search engine and browser market share

In 2011, Google reported that it handled 143.5 billion searches a month. Google represents 66.4 percent of the search engine market share, according to comScore’s February 2012 report. The Chrome and Firefox browsers together represent 39.8 percent of the browser market share, according to Net Market Share’s February 2012 reporting. Consequently, 26.4 percent — 66.4 x 39.8 — of all searches last month were conducted on Google in Chrome or Firefox. If this trend holds, 26.4 percent of all searches going forward will be stripped of their keyword data. And this doesn’t include the searches conducted by users logged in to Google properties and searching Google from any web browser.

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce »

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