So, What Just Happened?

On April 9, Google officially rolled out their improved and continued efforts in maintaining the highest level of security for their Chrome users. Announcing they have rolled out SSL encryption for omnibox searches in Chrome browser when users are not signed in to Google.  Previously, this security layer was only applied to ‘signed in’ users. Chrome is not the only web browser to take action. Similar changes have been seen Firefox 14+, IE10 and Mobile Safari.

What does that mean?

Chrome will not be passing the query information to Analytics or any other third-party tracking tools. Naturally, the thought of losing our beloved Search Term reporting spurred hysteria across the PPC blogosphere. Never fear, we’re here to help quiet the noise.

How will it affect Search Agencies and the work we do for our clients?

The big question being, will we be able to see search queries in AdWords? The answer is, yes! This will not affect our ability to pull a Search Term report within AdWords. This report is highly useful in keyword expansion as well as blocking unwanted traffic. If you monitor organic trends, you can still get the usual information from Webmaster Tools. However, if you need search query information appended to your URL, this means you need to start using ValueTrack to append keyword level data (if you’re not already using). You may need to do so if you are using dynamic landing pages.

Did the interface change?

Because this announcement is so new, we are still able to see the option to view AdWords query data in Analytics. This will likely be changed in the very near future. Below is where this information can currently be found.

An Example of a Google Analytics Graph, Recently Using Not Provided as Search Data

Where can I find Webmaster Tools?

To make sure you can see SEO search query data in Analytics, select Reporting and then on the left, select Acquisition. Under Acquisition, click Search Engine Optimization. If you see the result below when you click Queries, you need to set up Webmaster Tools data sharing.

The Google Webmaster Tools Interface

Webmaster Tools allows you to view the top 2,000 organic search queries. Once you have linked your properties you can then select the site you want to report against. From there, you will click Search Traffic and then Search Queries. You can learn more about how to view search query information in Webmaster Tools on this Google Support page.

How will this affect query-based automation?

If you use the referrer query information for generating reports or automating changes within your account, there are plenty of ways to keep doing this. You can still utilize AdWords API Search Query Performance report or the AdWords Scripts Report service .

What if I use query data to dynamically update landing pages?

If you are using the referring information to customize landing pages, try using the keyword that generated the click instead of the search query. Information about your keyword and match types can still be sent to your web server by using a ValueTrack parameter for destination URLs. Don’t worry, it’s relatively simple.

What is ValueTrack and how do I use it?

ValueTrack is a Google feature for tagging URLs.  Simply add a special tag to your ad’s destination URL.

For Example:

You can collect keyword and match type information by appending the following code to each keyword destination URL. Here is an example of how this would look:{exact}&keyword={ppcagency}

You’ll notice braces surround the information that you are collecting (no spaces) and an ampersand (&) symbol separates multiple parameters. You can also see to get the full list of parameters available with ValueTrack.

Will using keyword level data vs. query data change the effectiveness of my landing page customization?

If you have your ad groups and keywords structured to prioritize the most relevant term and/or you are utilizing embedded negatives, you should be able to maintain the same level of accuracy with keyword data. The importance of this depends on the granularity of the changes being made to the site.

What is SSL and why is it necessary?

SSL stands for secure sockets layer and is used to keep sensitive information protected as it is sent across the Internet. This layer encrypts the data so that only the intended recipient can understand it. This becomes important when the information needs to pass from one computer to another in order to get to the destination server. This change helps protect users from hackers and identity thieves.

Why was this changed?

Why would Google make this change, other than to increase the security of their browser and engine users? Many third-party ad networks use Google search behavior to determine who that person is and if they fit with a target audience. They will later show that individual an ad within their display properties. Google, having their own display network, could be considered a competitor of these companies. Even if the third-party network can place ads within the GDN, Google wants to ensure that they are buying directly from them before turning to another network.

Final Thoughts:

There’s no need for panic. This shouldn’t affect the day-to-day of a search professional or advertiser. You can continue to get search query information from the Search Term report within AdWords. If you still need to append query data to your URLs, you’ll have to use the ValueTrack feature and settle for keyword level data.