Secure Search: Everybody’s Doing It

Senior Digital Analyst
Published 2/3/14
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Yahoo and Bing move to secure search as well

So the dust has settled, mostly, on Google rolling out secure search for all organic searches through its search engine a couple of months ago. Those of us who deal with SEO and analytics have had time to go through the stages of grief and we’re at acceptance. At peace. But wait! Not wanting to be left out, Yahoo and Bing are also entering the secure search fray. Yahoo is going about it differently than Google, however.

With Google, marketers and analysts can still see referrer data and can tell how many site visitors got to your site using a Google organic search. The term used to reach the site is passed through as the dreaded and rapidly growing "Not Provided." With Google Webmaster Tools, keywords and CTR are still available, and if you're using Google AdWords, you will receive full data for visitors clicking on ads, including search terms.

But not Yahoo. Yahoo searches won't show up in your analytics as a visit from Yahoo search with a keyword of "Not Provided." Yahoo searches will show up as a direct visit. No keyword. No Yahoo as a source of traffic. Yahoo's new secure search rollout began two weeks ago and is scheduled to be complete by the end of March. Yahoo's reason for the change is protecting user privacy and rolling out complete secure search was one of its promises for the first quarter.

So, where marketers and analysts once saw Yahoo as a source of traffic, those lucky people will see direct traffic increase as the rollout continues. The Yahoo organic searches will appear as though a user typed in the site URL or bookmarked the site. Wait, but ... so, Yahoo isn't going to show up in my analytics at all?

Well, great, Debbie Downer, thank YOU for more bad news about improving our client sites for search engine optimization.

That's right. Yahoo organic search will slip off the face of the earth in your analytics. It's an odd strategy, but the general consensus among marketer types is "Yahoo who?" Among our clients, Yahoo makes up 8 to 15 percent of organic search traffic, far behind Google. It doesn't sound like much, but watching your organic search percentage drop and your direct traffic grow isn't going to be fun. Yahoo says, like Google, that all data will be available for those using Yahoo for advertising. So, there's that.

So what about Bing? When are they jumping on the secure search bandwagon? Oh, Bing has, kind of. Bing offers secure search if a user wants to. The default is not secure search, so there's that. For those who do use the secure search option, it is handled the same way as Yahoo: No search terms passed through and the visit is counted as direct traffic.

I know what you’re thinking: Well, great, Debbie Downer, thank YOU for more bad news about improving our client sites for search engine optimization. We might as well just give up and shut it all down. It's not that bad. Remember, Google is still king – we're talking about Yahoo and Bing here, and Google is still passing referring data to analytics, is still passing keywords, CTR and SERP rank in Google Webmaster Tools, and is still passing all data for AdWords campaigns.

BrightEdge has addressed the secure search changes with Bing and Yahoo and continues to stress using a page-centric SEO strategy and relying less and trying to rank for certain keywords. Yahoo's announcement further supports the BrightEdge strategy, and Bing's eventual move to default search is just another reason to keep up with BrightEdge's changes. Check out BrightEdge’s updated Guide to Secure Search for more information.