This article about a Google announcement regarding secure search, written by Eldad Sotnick-Yogev, is from the Mindshare Original Thinker Series.

Search marketers were thrown into a tailspin in 2013 when Google began to use secure search to remove keyword data seen in Google Analytics for organic traffic. On 9 April 2014, Google announced that the same is now happening to paid search. While many may react with panic, the reality is that advertiser's keyword data is still available in Adwords and it is only in Google Analytics that it will become more difficult to get this information.

The nucleus of the announcement is that when people using secure search click on Adwords ads, the actual words they typed into the query won't be passed onto analytics packages and third-party software.

There isn't too much to fear here. The change is one that doesn't impact what is really available and with a little more interaction between organic search, paid search and analytics we're still able to guide things based on keyword data, search query data and map it back to conversions.


Secure Search was introduced by Google to provide an extra (privacy) shield for its users. When secure search for organic keywords was introduced we quickly saw that between 70-100% of organic traffic was now listed as "not provided" in analytics reports. Clearly, this caused problems, but SEO practitioners have learned to adapt.

Paid search advertisers won't be as directly impacted as keyword data is still going to be fully available via Adwords. What most people are missing is that there is a difference between search query data and keyword data. The simple definitions are:

  • Search query data – the actual keywords the searcher typed and what Google is not passing on to analytics and third-party software
  • Keyword data – the terms an advertiser bids on

It is because of this difference that bid management tools will continue to operate as normal. Statements from Marin and Kenshoo clearly highlight that they are unaffected by this announcement and their platforms will continue to perform.


Paul Feng, Product Management Director, AdWords wrote on a blog post that "for generating reports or automating keyword management with query data, we suggest using the AdWords API Search Query Performance report or the AdWords Scripts Report service."

Thus, for those wanting the data for their Analytics team it is available, but will require a different method of extraction (and possibly cleaning in order to be matched for interpretation). From our perspective, this is a simple issue that can be remedied by the two services above. Simultaneously, it only changes how we analyze search query performance and not the keyword data itself. As many have pointed out, if you are using conversion tracking in Adwords it is viewable through the search terms report within Adwords.

A more integrated approach is now required. In the past, search marketers were focused on how SEO and PPC could work together. While secure search hampered this easily happening – as the two sides couldn't compare the same visible keywords – we've learned to work together in other ways. Now it is imperative that analytic teams become a bit closer to their paid search teams; something that most good companies were already doing.