What is Google Encrypted Search?

29 November 2011

Google recently announced that the searches by the logged-in users will be encrypted from now on. This effectively means that the privacy of the users is now more stringently protected while using Google Search Engine. This also means that the company is now blocking the referrer data from the third parties (including Google Analytics). Entire connection of the users with Google will be encrypted (URL: https://www.google.com/) and no one except Google will be able to know the search queries. The encryption is done using Secured Socket Layer (SSL) protocol.

So, who does Google want to protect us from? Well, there are multiple parties that can have access to your queries and use the data for promoting their own products/services. For instance, the Network Administrators, ISPs, Webmasters of other websites all require this data to draw up effective business and marketing strategies.

The destination sites will be able to know that the visitor has come from Google search, but he will not be able to easily decipher the query used by the user to visit the website. Moreover, using Google Webmaster Tools, the Webmasters will also be able to access the “aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to their site for each of the past 30 days”.

The advertisers too need not fret over Google Encrypted Search, as they can still measure the effectiveness of their ad campaigns and improve them, since their browser can send the relevant query over the network.

Need for Google Encrypted Search

Google felt the need for encrypting its search results due to increasing concerns about the privacy of the users. Moreover, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has been on the forefront clamouring for all the Internet connections to be secured under its campaign “HTTPS Everywhere”. Since Google is among the most used search engines around the world, it makes sense to secure the connection by encrypting the search results of the logged-in users.

Criticism of Google Encrypted Search

1. Google Encrypted Search does not totally apply to the Google ads. When a user clicks an ad appearing on the Google results page, the Webmaster will be able to know that the visitor came from Google. So, the visitor-tracking is still not completely ruled out even after the introduction of Google Encrypted Search.

2. Another major loophole of the Google Encrypted Search is that it works only when the user is logged in to the Google services.

Many internet security experts and internet marketers have trashed Google Encrypted Search and raised doubts about Google’s real intentions. According to some, this is an attempt by Google to “barter the data in order to leverage security as a quality control factor”.

Useful Tips for Internet Marketers to Absorb Encryption Impact

(a) Foremost, the internet marketers must benchmark the performance of keyword search data – both historically as well as on an ongoing basis.

(b) The Google Webmaster Tools must be re-evaluated.

(c) Communication of changes to the team members and the management is quintessential.

(d) Communication with third party reporting and marketing vendors is equally important.

The internet marketers need not lose sleep over Google Encrypted Search and its impact on their working, as by Google’s own admission, this change won’t affect more than 10% searches. And the good news is that thus far, the impact has been minimal.

Thus, Google Encrypted Search is a step in the right direction, but Google needs to allay the fears of the internet marketers concerning its long term plans, as the company is being increasingly seen as monopolizing the internet, and the way the internet marketing revolves around the Google searches, the fears of marketers are not entirely unfound.

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