Late in 2011, Google made a change where all U.S. users logged in to a Google account were automatically redirected to the secure (https) version of Google search. In order to prevent hackers from snooping on your web sessions with Google and possibly capturing user search results and website browsing history with Google.
While this was definitely a positive move for individual security, it had some interesting side effects. Most notable from the SEO point of view, the change prevented the actual search term used from passing through to the target website as the referrer.
In the past, most Google searches would pass on the search term that users typed in to find your website. Information that is extremely valuable to website owners and marketers. Knowing the actual search terms that visitors used to searched for to find your website would help companies and marketers alike to further gain insight into understanding website audience and make necessary changed to better serve and target the audience. Under the guise of “security", however, Google started to phase out the feature. Note, paid Google search still continues to pass keyword data, in what many consider to be a hypocritical move by Google.
Since 2011, Google has been opting-in more and more swaths of the public into their “secure by default" program. Searches via the Chrome omnibox, all Google account users worldwide, and even searches in Firefox started going secure. Little by little, website owners were losing their precious term information.
The final death blow came in September of 2013, when Google forced everyone onto secure search wherever possible and as the result, these days, it's rather rare for a non-paid Google referrer to contain a search term.
But there is a silver lining to this. While it's certainly not as accurate or precise as it used to be, Google Webmaster Tools now provides search terms for Google clicks to your site. This can be a gold mine of information, and should be checked periodically to make sure website's are on the right track with their marketing efforts, SEO, and content strategy.
Other search engines, such as Yahoo and Bing have yet to start hiding search terms data, and we certainly hope it continue that way. Also, remember that paid search still provides keyword terms data to the users, and the consensus is that despite the hypocrisy, it would infuriate markets so much that Google probably won't start holding terms back on that front any time soon.
If you're interested in learning more about Google keyword search terms data and all the optimal way to utilize the information in order to analyze your website traffic and search engine optimization for your relevant keyword terms, contact our Louisville web design team at (502)252-1446 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.