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Google's Encrypted Search Goes Beyond Beyond the Single Digits

When Google announced in October that it was going to start encrypting search and outbound clicks, search marketers were concerned about the impact. Google reassured marketers that the change would affect less than 10% of all searches.

The Numbers Are Coming In

However, some research since the change suggests that the search data not delivered or made available because someone signed into Google first–and hence is encrypted–is higher than what Google had projected.

On the conservative side, Conductor found that 8.875% of Google traffic is now not available. By contrast, Rand Fishkin at SEOMoz reported that sites he surveyed had an average of 12% of Google natural search traffic that was not provided in the week of Nov. 4 – Nov. 10th. Brian Whalley at Hubspot reported that an average of 11.36% traffic was not provided for Hubspot customers.

Search marketers were leery of the Google announcement when it first was announced, writes Search Engine Watch. Now, as these numbers show the extent of its impact, "worry is growing in the industry," it says.

Site to Site, Paid versus Organic

The percentage of queries Google withholds from the query term form depends on the site and whether the site relies on organic or paid search to generate traffic, notes Yahoo Web Analytics.

Yahoo Web Analytics has developed a new metric to capture exactly how much Google search traffic is encrypted and thus not providing any keyword data. It calls it "Lost Keyword Data" and Yahoo advises it should be tracked and included in keyword reports.

To calculate the "Lost Keyword Data" metric, Yahoo creates two custom segments that it compares against each other. One will show traffic generated by Google that doesn’t provide keywords and the other will show the total traffic sent by Google.

Longer Search Queries

Google decision to encrypt search comes as search queries are trending longer, according to Experian Hitwise.  It found longer search queries, those averaging six to eight words or more, increased 3% from June 2011 to July 2011.

Also, five-word searches grew 2% month-over-month, four-word searches grew 1%, one- and three-word searches stayed flat and two-word searches declined 2%.

However, shorter search queries still accounted for a majority of the total. One-word queries were most popular, making up about 25% of the total, while two-word queries constituted another 23.5%.

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