Google’s Privacy Settings Step up a Notch

Google’s Privacy Settings Step up a Notch

For all our SEO clients we regularly check the search queries being used to find their sites to see if there is anything new we should be tracking and optimising for. Annoyingly the most used search query is almost always ‘not provided’.

This was because in 2011 Google began encrypting the searches for anyone who was logged into Google. We were told it was for improved privacy – extremely frustrating for Search Engine Optimiser’s – what if we were missing something significant?

This month it seems Google has stepped up their privacy and is now encrypting a significant number of searches even if you aren’t signed in to Google. However, Google is still letting us see what search queries were used when ads were clicked on….interesting. The change is very sudden and there are discussions all over the web of why this is – Has this been done to block the US National Security Agency’s surveillance system Prism or to boost ad sales? Or both?

What is Prism?

Prism is a surveillance system that was launched in 2007 by the US National Security Agency (NSA), it’s used for counterterrorism data collection efforts and the NSA claim that it has prevented more than 50 potential terrorist attacks. It was claimed a spying scandal as the complex program can collect data such as emails, logins and videos held by companies such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook. Google denied giving instant and direct access of its search data to Prism.

So this would make sense for Google to want to protect its users from Prism, but isn’t it strange how the search terms aren’t so private that Adwords customers can’t see them either.

Limiting but not detrimental for SEO

Web Publishers are still able to see the search terms in Google Webmaster Tools but only the top 2000 search queries a day which are wiped after 90 days. This data is useful but not as useful as it would be if we could see it in Google Analytics. For example, we are not able to see the bounce rates, visit durations etc. which are extremely useful.

Archiving the search term data that is available and making the best of the information given is our current way forward with Google’s privacy settings intensifying. 

30 September 2013

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