Ever since Google prohibited webmasters from tracking which keywords were driving traffic to their websites from Google, e-marketers have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. In early April, it did. Google announced it would be “extending our efforts to keep search secure by removing the query from the referrer on ad clicks originating from SSL searches on Google.com.” It helps when reading Google’s announcement to recall that SSL is an encryption protocol designed to provide an extra security over the Internet http, and when https appears in the browser headline, it’s SSL that provides security. In brief, SSL prevents other people who are using the Internet from reading the information that travels to your browser.
Although there’s been much hand-wringing over the imagined implications for e-commerce, most industry observers don’t believe that businesses using Google’s AdWords advertising system will be affected significantly by the latest changes. The revisions were triggered by concerns regarding consumer privacy – issues that have dogged Google recently. It is reasonable to speculate that other major search engines like Bing and Yahoo will be jumping on Google’s bandwagon in the near future.
What You Need to Know Now
Advertisers who use AdWords or an AdWords partner will still get the full data access that AdWords has routinely provided. Marketers can breathe easy because they will still be able to get the information they need to help boost traffic to their websites. Concerns over possible changes to search term reports are similarly unwarranted. You’ll get the same reports either from AdWords or through a third-party platform such as WordStream, an AdWords partner that uses AdWords Application Programming Interface. Users will have to rely on the search terms in AdWords – they won’t see the URL with the entire referral string. If you have been using query data rather than keyword data from paid searches, then ValueTrack, the URL tagging feature offered by AdWords, can probably give you similar information.
Google has to satisfy the demands of both its advertisers and consumers – two groups whose interests don’t always coincide. The company has announced that it plans to roll out new features in AdWords. In order to give marketers access to more customer data, Google must offer a payoff for consumers, too. Most will share more personal data only if there is an incentive for them to do so. Google faces an era where fears concerning individual privacy and security are increasing. Charting a course that pleases both e-commerce and its customers will not be an easy task.