Following on the heels of Google, Microsoft have announced similar plans to encrypt searches, thereby obscuring important keyword data. This is purportedly as a direct result of the NSA (National Security Agency) activity earlier in the year, when it became apparent they were accessing online movement through keyword search data.
Google had already made the complete transition in September of this year, making all of their searches encrypted. Last year they had introduced encrypted searches however it was only applicable for logged in users. Before now, although search specialists lost important data from Google Webmaster Tools, they could at least extract information from Yahoo and Bing (albeit on a smaller scale), although with this move that is set to change.
It would seem that Microsoft have opted to make the change to encrypted in one single move, unlike Google who made the transition in stages. The topic of encryption is being discussed by top executives at Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond this week.
As it stands that leaves Yahoo open to Webmasters to extract keyword information from, however it too will encrypt searches soon – this won’t be comprehensive however like Google and Microsoft. At the moment their plan is for users to have to opt-in to use encrypted searches. However, given that Bing power many Yahoo searches there is concern that Microsoft will apply pressure on Yahoo to follow in their footsteps by encrypting all searches.
Looking at the keywords that users use to get to a particular website in doubt helps to inform a search strategy however it is not the only way in which businesses can utilise information – general keyword data is still available, and that, combined perhaps with sector or geographical keyword data, can help at least to give an idea of online behaviour by customers and prospective customers.