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Google's New Privacy Protection - What Does it Mean for You?

WRITTEN by: Jerrod Swanton |
categories: SEO

Oct 2011


Today Google announced their new "privacy" protection feature. Essentially, if a user is logged in to Google and they search for a phrase that leads them to your site, you will no longer have access to view the phrase that they typed to get to your site. This will of course not apply to paid search traffic.

Who Wins & Who Loses? The Rundown


The Searcher. Wins. Why? If you are logged in to Google, you get personalized search results. This could potentially mean that you will see a site you like when you search for "Men who like soft bunnies" a site that Google knows you prefer could show up. Are you searching for that? Maybe - I don't know. Now, assuming the current method is in place, that full search phrase is reported to the site you visit, and the site can easily track that phrase to a purchase - where you would enter your identity information. I don't see a huge risk here, but for those of us "men who love bunnies," it could save us some embarrassment. Please comment below if you are one of these men - solidarity man - together we are stronger.

The Searcher - again: This will help to eliminate a lot of content farms that are just cranking out nonsense to attract searchers. Many are automated based on search phrases that Google gives them when visitors are referred to their sites. This could potentially clean up search results. My feeling is that this is really the responsibility of Google's algorithm, but I have to acknowledge the upsite to the searcher all the same.

The Google: They reinforce the position that they protect the searcher above all else. They drive more advertisers to paid search. The further tighten their grip on the linkage between their tools.


The Advertisers: I know, boo hoo the poor advertisers, always getting abused by "the man." Remember, however, a lot of what you experience on a site has been crafted by advertisers, and often this makes sites much better for the visitor. By losing critical search intelligence, advertisers will no longer be able to craft the experience in the same way. Not a huge deal, but a deal all the same.

The Searcher: Yes, the searcher also loses in that their experience could be negatively affected by the loss of the search data to the publishers.

Biggest Loser - the publishers: Search queries are the food that drives a good content site. You may think content is the food, but alas - content is the muscle, context is the food. Look at ANY great content site - it's the context that drives relevant content, and you don't get better context than "what were they searching for?"

My opinion? Google's gonna have to "pull a Hasting" (see the Netflix reversal). I can't believe that the astounding number of Analytics users will tolerate this change. Does Google care about the users of their free tool? Probably somewhat, but more importantly, this change will not be viewed well by publishers, and if the stormy romance between Google and publishers was already strained, this puts the relationship into "counseling needed" territory. We're talking sleeping on the couch, one-word answers, no coffee in the morning, wrath of God type stuff here.

The BIG One

Here is my BIG concern. Google has limited access to query terms in the past. For example, you need to link your Adwords account to your Analytics account in order to see Adwords traffic properly in Analytics. Since this has happened, I can see a time when other Analytics tools will not have a methodology by which to track keyword data. This means that it could be possible that ONLY Google Analytics would have the data that publishers, advertisers and others would need. I don't think Google would do this maliciously, but simply as part of a "suite of tools" policy. If this happened, then it wouldn't matter what Google Analytics users think, because their data will be fine - it would be the Omniture users and users of other analytics tools that would suffer.

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