Once Again, Google Proves They Don’t Care About Publishers

Google announced today that they will now be automatically using the SSL version of their search engine for any user who is logged into their Google account.

Their official reasoning behind it is that it adds a new layer of security for those who rely on Google daily (read: everyone) as it is now much more difficult to sniff search queries on public wifi, via spyware, and any other attack vector.

Sure, that sounds pretty cool, thanks for doing that.

Wait a minute…

This is all fine and dandy, until you get to this part:

When you search from https://www.google.com, websites you visit from our organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won’t receive information about each individual query.

Every single site owner and SEO on the planet should have had their ears (eyes?) perk up when they read that part.

It gets even better when you hit this gem:

 If you choose to click on an ad appearing on our search results page, your browser will continue to send the relevant query over the network to enable advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present to you.

What does this all mean? It means Google has just blocked referrer keyword data from organic results from ALL analytics platforms whenever a user is logged in to their Google account. However, if a user reaches you via an Adwords PPC ad, they’ll still pass along that referrer data to your preferred analytics platform.

Want to see how useful the data they give is? It’s already showing up in my analytics:

google ssl blanked referrer

To say this is an abuse of power is quite an understatement. Google very well knows the search queries that sent users to you, seeing as how they are the ones who sent them in the first place. But in order to avoid anti-trust issues, rather than only allowing that data to show up in Google Analytics, they’re going to block it from all platforms instead. So in the effort of being fair, they’re screwing over everyone.

This just goes to show that Google is NOT on the publisher’s side. While publishers are the entire reason Google is in business (They’re the world’s largest scraper, their index is entirely full of other publisher’s content), Google has decided that unless you’re paying them to run your ads, you don’t deserve to know how people got to your site through their engine.

Well, this should at least stop those nasty SEOs…

In reality, it will make analytics a slight bit less useful, but there will still be all the data coming from users who aren’t logged in to Google, which I would imagine makes up quite a few users in actuality. However, it’s still extremely inconvenient for those of us who look at our referrer data to determine which pages on our site we need to beef up with new internal links, content, images, or videos in order to increase their rankings even higher.

But you know who else it screws with? SEOs who are smart enough to use their analytics data to power their Adwords campaigns. For some stupid reason, most people treat SEO and PPC as mutually exclusive ideas that will cause the world to ignite if you were to combine them together. However, a smart website owner, ecommerce store owner, or affiliate marketer will build a site that performs well in the SERPs as well as on the Adwords PPC network, and they’ll use the data from PPC to optimize their sites and the data from their organic traffic to optimize their PPC campaigns. With this latest rollout of SSL, a schism will be formed between your organic traffic analytics and your PPC campaigns.

The Bottom Line: Google’s customers are ADVERTISERS, not website owners and publishers.


  1. Actually, this will encourage more websites to enable SSL, since most browsers do send referer data from HTTPS to HTTPS. I feel this is a good thing.

    1. Hey Nathaniel, any idea of the compatibly for this stuff? I’m curious to see which browsers pass along that data and which don’t…

      1. If I’m not mistaken, Opera sends referer info regardless of whether the sites use SSL or not (this is default behaviour and can be disabled).

        As far as I know, all the other major browsers send referer info when going from HTTPS->HTTPS, HTTP->HTTPS and of course HTTP->HTTP.

        I’ll experiment with it when I get home tonight and will let you know.

          1. I couldn’t wait, so I tested it now on Chrome 14.0.835.202 (latest stable), IE 9.0.8112 and Firefox 6.0.2 the results are the same for all:

            HTTP to HTTP: Referer sent.
            HTTP to HTTPS: Referer sent.
            HTTPS to HTTP: Referer not sent.
            HTTPS to HTTPS: Referer sent.

            Now I’m not sure about Opera sending the referer in every single case, and I can’t test it at the moment, but it should at least send referers from HTTPS to HTTPS.

          2. I can’t seem to edit my post, but here’s are two links that you can use to test it yourself:
            Non SSL: http://coios.net/test/
            SSL: https://secure.coios.net/test/ It’s an extremely simple test, but if you don’t have access to a domain with HTTPS, it can be a hassle. You can use localhost (with and without SSL) to test the referral.

            (sorry, messed up a link with my previous comment)

  2. Previously thought this was hype when I first read in a daze yesterday, but when put like this – fair point.

    I remember reading a few weeks ago about Facebook limiting company page post showing in user feeds.

    Looks like we’re all slowly being pushed down the funnel – I can see the end in sight where EVERYTHING must be paid for in £s / $s rather than effort and skill.

  3. Any idea if this only affects searches that originate from Google.com? As in, will this also affect searches from Chrome’s omnibar, or the Firefox browser search field?

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