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How Yahoo Secured Search Affects Your Web Analytics

At Buzzstarter, I try to keep up not only with the latest in search but also in digital analytics and I try to provide secured search by buzzstartercolleagues, past and current clients information that will be critical to their operation. Lately I have been noticing a more proactive stance by the big search engines on a move towards secured search and the one thing that is changing up how web analytics data is being collected is that most of them are moving search onto a secure server (HTTPS). With Google, we are not so surprised since they have been trying to move everyone to this protocol since October 2011. Back then, searches done while logged into any Google service will not be recorded and passed onto any analytics platform, including Google Analytics. By September 2013, Google made the final announcement that all searches will be secured by default. What this meant was search professionals know people are coming from a Google search but they wouldn’t know what the search term was that brought the visitor in.

One way to see some of this data was to force everyone to adopt and integrate search keyword data from Google Webmaster Tools onto Google Analytics which only gives you impressions but not really traffic volume by keyword. It was a half-baked yet decent solution. I actually created a Google Analytics filter that can still identify and bucket release some information coming from secure Google searches (a solution I provide) but for the most part it will only release keywords if users aren’t signed in, something that is quite a challenge now with mobile visitors using android, where they are almost perpetually logged in.

Now let’s move onto Yahoo. With their recent push to secured search in the past two months, how is this going to affect your web analytics data? As much as web analytics platform agnostic as I can be with this answer, do not expect some interesting spikes in your Direct traffic. Would you get an “keyword unavailable” or “not provided” spike on your organic search engine by source reports? Yes, so far with what we have observed with most of the more popular web analytics platforms (GA, Adobe Omniture, Webtrends, ClickTale, Piwik) and most of them still translate the traffic coming from Yahoo Search (http://r.search.yahoo.com/) as organic traffic, although it will be a lot more complicated to define this if the only platform you use is Google Analytics. That is another topic I will write soon on how to create effective filters on how to do this.

As of currently, Yahoo does not want to reveal anything to you, from a data standpoint.

Some of you guys reading this may ask, “Would Yahoo implement something similar to Google Webmaster Tools data?” My answer would be the jury is still out on that since this secure search rollout seems to still be incomplete as I still see some Yahoo keyword data on some of the production analytics sites I work on at the moment. However, I have noticed a downward trend of organic keyword traffic coming from Yahoo’s organic search in the past two months at 5% month-over-month.

This brings us up to Bing and what the future is for that search engine. As far as I can tell from the grapevine and from real life experience, they also launched secured searches towards the end of January 2014 but it’s not on by default. However if you do have it on by default, expect the same behavior as implemented by Google or Yahoo. That means no keyword data as well as possibly losing referring site data.

Now on a web analytics platform perspective, what does this mean to your organization as well? I have been working with medium to large scale companies that utilize Google Analytics as their main platform. Others I work with use GA as a validation tool and rely on a paid solution such as Webtrends or Omniture (Adobe Marketing Analytics) as their data source for digital analytics. For GA, Google has yet to announce if they will try to provide a solution to their free product that will try to translate such organic traffic coming from a secure Yahoo or Bing search.

At Buzz Starter I try to come up with creative filter solutions either on a profile or report level and still try to translate secured search data regardless of what platform you use.

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Posted in: Analytics, BuzzStarter, Optimization Floor, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization
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