This week, Google announced that they are extending their efforts to keep search secure by removing the query from the referrer on paid ad clicks coming from SSL searches on Google.com. There has been a lot of speculation following this announcement, with various reports comparing this to the loss of organic keyword data when Google rolled out (not provided) with the encryption of organic search queries last year.

So does this latest announcement from Google mean we will be losing search query data from PPC?

The facts

The official announcement from Google states:

“Advertisers will continue to have access to useful data to optimize and improve their campaigns and landing pages. For example, you can access detailed information in the AdWords search terms report and the Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries report.”

This essentially means that (at least for now) the existing Search Terms Report in Adwords will still be available, and so we will still be able to access the data that we currently have access to on what search queries triggered ad clicks and conversions in the Adwords interface. As a result, we will still be able to use search query data to manage and optimise our paid search accounts.

So what is affected?

It seems that what this latest change will affect is the use of the search query in the referring URL of paid search clicks meaning, for example, if you were using search query data to generate automated landing pages based on the user search query this is likely to no longer be possible.

To combat this, Google recommends:

“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.
For customizing landing pages, we suggest using the keyword that generated the ad click, rather than the query. The keyword and match type can be passed to your web server by using a ValueTrack parameter in your destination URLs.”

It is possible that this change could also affect reporting in other tools such as Google Analytics and other third party software – so, for example, we may start to see paid search queries reporting as (not provided) when running Analytics reports. However, Adwords reports will currently remain unaffected.

Conclusion

To summarise, this change is likely to only affect the referring URL of paid search clicks, and we will still have access to useful search query data in Adwords – essentially, paid search queries will still be provided to Adwords advertisers.

Could Google look to further encrypt paid search data in the future? Possibly, although it is unlikely that we will lose access to search query data entirely, as for most advertisers this feature plays such a fundamental role in the optimisation of paid search accounts.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Sources / Further Reading:

http://googleadsdeveloper.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/security-enhancements-for-search-users.html
http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2339093/Google-Starts-Blocking-Access-to-Paid-Search-Keyword-Data
http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2339335/News-Flash-Paid-Search-Query-Data-Isnt-Going-Away-Duh
http://searchengineland.com/official-google-brings-provided-ads-will-withhold-search-query-data-paid-clicks-188750
http://searchengineland.com/report-google-block-paid-search-keyword-data-provided-like-organic-provided-188646