Google launches encryption for PPC search terms

Posted: Thursday 10th April 2014 in Paid Media, Thought Leadership.
Google's encrypted search set to hit PPC

Google are planning to encrypt PPC search terms

What’s happened?

Paid Search keyword search term data will now be encrypted for all Google users as they have already done for SEO. This means that Google will stop passing the query parameters via the referrer information, making the information a user searches for private.

What does this mean for retailers?

PPC marketers will have significantly less keyword data available through third party tracking providers. The ‘See search terms’ report within Google will not be affected, however, as the data used is already anonymous.

What is Summit’s view?

Again as with the changes that have already taken place for SEO encryption, this is something that is happening and not something that we can opt out of or impact. Our relationship with Google meant that we were confidentially notified of these impending changes on Monday; however Google hold all the cards here and they are starting to play them even closer to their chests.

It all depends on how you currently carry out your search query reports (SQRs) – If you only use ‘See search terms’ within the Google interface or via the API to carry out your SQRs then nothing will change and you can continue in the same vein. At Summit our tracking provider collects our SQR data using the data Google passes on within the referrer information; this means we can/could match visit data and therefore sales to each individual search term. The changes Google are going to make will no longer allow us to do this.

Keyword level data will still be available for other search engines such as Bing. We should still be able to glean some valuable information from the data we can collect here, however we know that we are limited by volume due to Google’s monopoly of the market. The cynics among us would say that it feels like Google are pushing us towards using their conversion tracking and Google Analytics packages so we can still collect the level of data we would like, however they have stated that ‘See search terms’ will remain the same.

Whatever our view is it doesn’t change the fact that this is happening and we are going to lose a level of Google data that has been very insightful in the past.

What action should retailers take?

Make sure you change your current SQR process if you are using something other than ‘See search terms’ in the Google interface. Look to implement Google conversion tracking if you don’t currently to enable you to see if any search terms are generating sales and revenue. Take full advantage of the keyword data we can still collect from other search engines such as Bing, and implement the trends/insights you see to your Google PPC campaigns.

“PPC encryption is something that we thought was going to be enforced in the future, It’s just a shame it’s come sooner rather than later” – Georgia Chisem, PPC Training Manager, Summit.


If you’ve got a question about the changes in Google’s sponsored ad listings we’d be more than happy to answer it. Contact Dave Trolle, Head of Direct Response.