Probably one of the most commented news last week was Google’s decision to implement a secure search for clicks on paid search ads. A lot of people thought that as a result, Adwords users won’t have access to the actual words that people entered in the search engine before clicking on the paid ad. This caused a “small hysteria” in the online marketing world.
Now, one week later, things look different and according to a lot of PPC experts, not a lot is changing for the vast majority of SEMs.
Why Google is bringing “(not provided)” to Adwords?
Since October 2011 Google stopped passing search queries from organic clicks when the searches are made on a secure Google webpage. This created a discrepancy between webmasters and advertisers and a lot of people were unhappy with the situation: Google was providing advertisers with data that non-paying SEOs weren’t receiving.
In March 2014, Google search chief Amit Singhal acknowledged that Google recognizes the lack of parity that exists between non-paying Google Analytics users and Google Adwords users while it comes to search query data. He said that “in the coming weeks and months, we (Google) are looking at better solutions for this”
That’s why the official Google announcement from April 2014, saying that they will bring the “(not provided)” keywords to paid search should not be such a big surprise.
The main argument for doing that is that this is to protect the user’s security (same as with organic searches). Google is concerned that people will type names, addresses, or other sensitive information into a search bar that could make them personally identifiable.
What exactly is Google changing?
Prior to this change, the referring URL on Adwords ads used to contain the search query, that the user typed to see the ads. In other words, when you click on an ad, Google used to insert your search query into the referring URL string, like this:
After this change, Google will no longer pass to advertisers the user’s search query in the referrer strings. From no on, search queries will be omitted in the referring URL and will appear as “(not provided)” in analytics reports.
Over the next months, the percentage of search queries omitted for paid search traffic will reach organic levels, representing nearly all user queries.
Can you still access the paid search query data?
However, advertisers will still be able to access the paid search query data, using the search terms report in AdWords.
The AdWords search terms report (previously known as the search query performance report) lets you see search queries that generated ad clicks along with key performance data.
So what’s the impact of this change?
A lot of paid search experts identified this change as an “annoyance” or “inconvenience” but the general opinion is that Google’s decision won’t lead to a big change in the PPC word.
However, Adwords advertisers will be forced to change the process they currently analyze and process search query performance data.
Moreover, third-party PPC management platforms such as WordStream and Marin Software, will not be impacted, since most of these tools access search query data via the AdWords API.
I am a digital marketing consultant and SEO expert based in Hong Kong. With a track record spanning over 11 years, I have helped numerous clients from China, Europe, and around the globe achieve results. In my blog, I share my experience and proven methods in SEO, PPC, and digital marketing strategies.