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Dear Google: This is war
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 05:18

Dear Google: With your announcement yesterday, you've become the enemy.

My company is a Google Analytics Partner. We promote the heck out of Google Analytics, Adwords and your products. I've worked hard to emphasize to my clients that you're not Evil, or Good. You're just doing your job. We've kept our clients within your terms of service, and basically behaved ourselves.

But now you're going to hide a sizable chunk of referring organic keyword data. That's information I need to justify your value to my clients: Once you shut down organic search data from 'signed in' users, I lose any accurate picture of traffic generated by organic Google rankings.

Google HTTPs announcement

It's not about privacy

Don't try to say this is a privacy thing. It. is. not. How exactly does this protect privacy, when you tie the text of e-mails to your advertising platform? How does this protect privacy when you're photographing people's streets, homes and whatever else you can lay your hands on?

Don't get me wrong - I've not opposed e-mail ads, or Street View. But you can't shut down search query data and then protest privacy. That's like leaving one bite of steak on your plate and saying you're a vegetarian.

Are you honestly telling me you had no way to deliver anonymous counts of keyword searches by signed-in users? You've never found a way to do this? 'Cause that sounds like a load of horse hooey, if ever I've heard one.


The real reason

You've done this for one reason, and one reason only: To shut out competing ad networks. By removing this data from the referring query string (oh, you didn't think we'd notice?!) you've made it far harder for third-party ad networks to measure and quantify traffic quality.

Plus, you no longer have to justify ranking results, OR Adwords data. Personalization already scrambles the crap out of them. Without accurate search query data, we have no way to check your math on Google Adwords search counts. I guess we have to trust you. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Cough. Sniff. Sob.

Ain't gonna happen.

Google is dirving me MAD!

You've made yourself into just another vendor we should never, ever, trust.

It'll be interesting to see how many SEOs don their black hats after this. I certainly don't feel as compelled as I once was to follow your terms of service. And I'm not the only one. Some pretty white-hat, respectable people are pretty pissed off.

So, nice job. You've made your feelings clear. I wonder how things are going to go for you in Washington DC after this?

Not well, I think. Not well at all.

Signed; Your former friend and believer, Ian

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 October 2011 05:27


+7 #1 anthonydnelson 2011-10-19 05:38
Ian- A fantastic post that I agree with in it's entirety. I think this announcement by Google was handled as bad as Netflix's splitting of the plans, Qwikster email. Neither company was honest or straightforward behind their reasonings and in both results the users of the product lost big time. If you're going to do something crappy or evil, at least try to be somewhat straightforward about it. If Google said, "it's a business decision," we'd still be upset over the lost data, but not as upset about the way it was handled.

I hope to see some official responses from Google or Matt Cutts but I'm not holding my breath.
-9 #2 Matt Gammie 2011-10-19 05:43
Just another example to illustrate how large corporations have beaten market regulation and the grasp of the state to create anti-democratic monopolies. This is an excellent blog post, however I would suggest that a more legitimate target for disgruntled SEOs would be capitalism in its present form per se; why limit our scope to just Google?
+2 #3 Koozai Mike 2011-10-19 05:47
Ian this is absolutely spot on and I love the vegetarian / steak analogy!

The worst part is Google don't really care what SEO's think, this is a massive PR win for them in the eyes of the common man and that's what they care about. Of course that doesn't mean we can't fight back, but they're unlikely to undo the change now.
-3 #4 Charles Edmunds 2011-10-19 05:48
Couldn't have said it better myself. What a stupid business decision. At least they're progressing along in mobile cause this decision sounds like the 800lb gorilla is about to go on a really big diet.

This should present a good opportunity for Facebook advertising once they release keywords into thier advertising algos in the upcoming quarter.

Shame in you Google! Shame on you!
+7 #5 Matt M 2011-10-19 05:52
@koozai mike - I doubt the common man will even hear about this nor care. Its really just an industry thing.
+9 #6 Mike Haydon 2011-10-19 06:30
After doing this for years, I choose to look at it as a game. We just went to the next level where the rules are different and it's harder to win. Only the strong and adaptable survive, same as when humankind first encountered the sabre toothed tiger.

The only thing we can control is our response.
+1 #7 Yousaf 2011-10-19 06:31
You might get this data in paid version?
+2 #8 Deliseo 2011-10-19 07:07
Ian, i agree with you. Bad news and wrong way from Google !
0 #9 Peter 2011-10-19 07:08
@Yousaf They will still pass the correct referrer data on Adwords clicks, just not organic clicks. So, you have to pay for your clicks to get keyword data.
+2 #10 Doc Sheldon 2011-10-19 07:40
My first reaction was much the same as yours, Ian. But sitting in on a very interesting chat this morning, amongst some folks that are MUCH more technically capable than I, gave me a somewhat different perspective... one that I think has some validity.

I suspect that any competitive advantage this move might give them was simply gravy - an unintended side-effect of a preemptive action.
-2 #11 Jeff Loquist 2011-10-19 09:16
Great post Ian. Whatever the reason for doing this, the bottom line is they have become hypocritical. Not that they have never been so, this is just a blatantly obvious one. Oh well, I guess, just one more rule change that makes our jobs a little more interesting and difficult (even if it is ridiculous).
+2 #12 Bill Elward 2011-10-19 11:40
Wow, so we'll no longer be able to tie conversions to organic search terms in our web analytics tool (for signed in users)? I've got to think Google will modify Google Analytics to enable this level of tracking - wouldn't that make Google way more attarctive than Omniture or Coremetrics?
+1 #13 Bilal Sarwari 2011-10-19 21:13
what the hell, its not sure what Google want to do now, I am sad only because of shutting down of G Buzz, I waste my 1 year on it :-( now google is going to make search more secure
+1 #14 Haydon Rouse 2011-10-20 01:31
Wow - Google's announcement really changes things. SEO's and Google have always had a bit of a strained relationship, but it's just got a whole lot worse.
As you say Ian, this isn't about Privacy. I can't see Google going back on this decision.
+2 #15 Richard Sparks 2011-10-20 01:39
I think that this could have a seriously negative impact on the quality of Google's organic search results. If we can't accurately see the incoming search terms, then how can we make sure that our landing pages are wholly relevant?
+5 #16 Nekyian 2011-10-20 06:59
This is really a turnpoint in SEO history. Google has really done it this time. How's that make no evil crap sound right now? Money is just money, it has the same color no matter how you earn it. I bealive this will be remembered as the turnpoint when the other search engine started to look a little more appealing.
+6 #17 Keith 2011-10-20 07:45
Sucks to be Chitika right now, I can just see their new advertising headers now... "Looking for 'X1biow4OKD0d," in Dallas?"
+1 #18 Greg 2011-10-20 08:21
If the full story only comes through with paid campaigns, would you suggest running a PPC campaign every few months or so just to see what is truly happening, and then compare and contrast with the results from the analytics package?
0 #19 The Internet Markete 2011-10-20 08:32
I can only say it comes as no surprise, you don't get to be one of the richest companies in the world without having an emphasis on money. This is just a follow on from Google Analytics premium version. You can have the information but you will have to pay for it.
-1 #20 Kevin 2011-10-20 08:59
What Google is doing and how they are justifying it...complete horse crap.

They say the change will only affect "single digit" searches. You'd have to be really naive to think this number won't grow - either naturally or by other changes Google makes in the name of "privacy".

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