Firefox officially launched its newest version, Firefox 14, on July 17th, bringing with it the upgrade announcement that Firefox will now utilize Google SSL search for all searches made through a few key functionalities. This means that a high percentage of user searches will be encrypted, above and beyond those directly from Google search results. Firefox is not omitting the keyword for all of the places where you search, but the Firefox release notes do not specifically state which search locations will pass vs. not pass.
The intention behind this change is in the name of user privacy. In a blog post from May 9, 2012, Firefox stated:
“…Encrypting our users’ searches is our next step into giving users better control over their data online. Enabling HTTPS for Google searches helps Firefox users maintain better control over who sees things they search for — queries that are often sensitive. We’re excited to see this improvement in our upcoming releases now that we, with Google’s help, have been able to provide our users a secure and responsive secure search.”
Firefox may be giving searchers more control over data online, but it leaves online marketers virtually nowhere to turn. Online marketers will have to get more creative than ever to effectively monitor campaigns, increase conversions and produce tailored messages to potential customers/clients that result in conversions.
Key Things to Know About the Change
- All searches made through the location bar, search box and right-click menu use Google SSL search by default.
- An estimated 75% of all searches made on Firefox are affected by SSL search. (Source: Chitika Insights)
- The majority of keywords used to conduct a search in Firefox search will no longer be available for online marketers to use in evaluating keyword drivers of their campaigns via third party tracking technologies.
- This only affects searches conducted through Google SSL, this should not impact Bing.
Actions You Need to Take
- Be sure your website is submitted to Google Webmaster Tools - this is one of the few places where the keywords driving users to your site are still available, though it is limited and not precise.
- For keyword-level analysis, use a keyword’s proportion of “provided” search volume to extrapolate the keyword’s proportion of “not provided” search volume. For example, if a site gets:
- 100,000 organic search visitors in a month
- 3,000 (3%) of its total organic search traffic came from Keyword A
- 25,000 (25%) of organic traffic came from keywords “not provided”
- Then we can assume that Keyword A also provided 3% of “not-provided” traffic, or 750 visits.
This calculation will be especially important when comparing keyword performance from one period to another, where the proportion of “not provided” searches changes dramatically, for example year-over-year. Note that this is an approximation and subject to errors.
- Place greater emphasis on page-level SEO visits/metrics, rather than keyword-level visits/metrics. Although the referring keyword may not be available, the landing page still is. If a page about “pizza ovens” gets “not-provided” traffic, it is very likely that “pizza oven” related search terms were used.
- Utilize Google AdWords for keywords that drive users from ad campaigns. This may not provide as much information as natural search if access were still available, however, it will still provide valuable insight to keywords driving users to your site.
- Get creative with your campaigns and look for other signals to help determine what user experiences and calls-to-action, in addition to keywords still available (and their variations), are driving users to your site.
- Unfortunately, ranking reports will be most marketers’ go-to. Remember that they vary dramatically based on geography, personalized search, etc. They may be useful for the SEO team, but our advice to in-house SEOs is that rankings are a performance indicator, but they are not a key performance indicator.
We expect this trend to continue, with it being only a matter of time before other browsers such as Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer, and even other search engines such as Bing, follow suit. With more restrictions continuing to evolve, it will make it harder than ever for online marketers to evaluate which keywords are driving users to their sites. Perhaps this shift away from keyword-only centered marketing will force online marketers to take a more holistic approach, resulting in a better user experience for searchers. Need some help adjusting your reporting dashboards? We help clients create actionable SEO reports for multiple stakeholders in the organization – reports that stand the test of time. … shameless plug. J
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