Earlier this month, Google announced that their encrypted search is going global. First deployed in October on google.com, it appears SSL encryption will now expand to other localized Google domains. The SEO community is still unhappy – and rightfully so. Although the percentage varies, site owners are seeing a significant portion of search traffic go dark – as much as 20%, 25%, or even 30% in some cases.
Since the beginning of the year, 37% of organic traffic to baynote.com has fallen into the dreaded (not provided) keyword category. Your numbers may vary, but I’d place a large bet that it far exceeds the “single-digit” percentages Google predicted back in October.
Much has been written (some of the best by the folks at Search Engine Watch) describing how encrypted search works, its impact on SEO, and Google’s real motives for the change – so I won’t rehash that fight here (although I agree that Google’s double-standard for paid vs. organic search greatly weakens their “it’s all about security” argument).
But what hasn’t been discussed is the impact on the end user, i.e., your customer. And here’s the ugly truth – when Google encrypts search, they damage the user’s experience. How? By preventing personalization of the landing page. For example, every visitor to a shoe category page from encrypted queries must be treated the same, regardless of whether their original search was for blue shoes, size 9 shoes or dancing shoes. That’s bad for the user and it’s bad for your business.
So, has Google completely crippled personalization? Of course not. The referring search term is just one of many behavioral, contextual, and demographic factors Baynote uses to determine how best to personalize each user’s experience. But in the online retail world, first impressions are critical and Google has made it harder to put your best shoe forward for new visitors. And that’s a shame.