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Google Secures User Searches – B2B companies get burned?

October 20, 2011

Google’s announced a move toward secure searches on an October 18th, 2011 blog post which sounds great at first (“Hey, more security is always better”). They will automatically redirect users to a secure SSL page if they are logged into their google accounts. This currently only accounts for 7% of all Google searches but Google typically rolls out changes to Google accounts first before rolling out to the remainder.

This move has far-reaching implications for B2B companies, though the full extent of  the impact for your SEO and paid advertising across Google and other ad networks is not fully determined.

What is SSL and how does this affect your marketing?

SSL secures transactions between web pages. SSL is the technology you see in your browser’s web address bar like when you shop online and the website address changes from to You also may see a little lock appear in your browser address bar. This means information you share on this page is encrypted and when you go from a SSL page to a non-SSL page, no referrer data will be passed.

In cases where you share secure info like credit cards, social security numbers or passwords, SSL is great. It avoids information being leaked into hands with bad motives.

But is there a need to make all data passed on the web secure?

  • If I search Google for “green tiger monkey statue” and a website I click in google knows what I was looking for based on the referrer data, does it put me in any kind of jeopardy?
  • Does it risk my personal information?

Referrer data passed to the next page helps you website improve content for visitors. If a website knows I’m looking for a “green tiger monkey statue” they could highlight the word on the page so I can skip to the part which interests me. Let’s say this website knows from their analytics that Google likes to send people to one of their pages on green tiger monkeys but the statue is talked about on another page and visitors tend to stay on that page longer. Wouldn’t it make sense if they knew this to send us to the page which in the past people find more useful? If Google isn’t going to serve up the page visitors find more useful, should you and I have to pay the price for Google’s algorithm flaws?

Referrer data makes businesses more money because it helps visitors find what they wanted – referrer data passed to your analytics program helps you discover what traffic sources make you the most money, what keywords perform best, what keywords aren’t doing well so you can improve the site, target the content toward those visitors, etc.

Here is a quick list of how you may be impacted

  • B2B companies have less sites on the web populated with passionate writers about a topic compared to consumer-based products and services so advertising costs on quality B2B sites are sky-high. Hence, they are more dependent on changes in organic and paid search technology to keep their advertising profitable.
  • If you automatically personalize pages based on organic search terms, you will likely lose this information as Google continues to roll out.
  • Third party advertising networks who rely on Google referrer data are in big trouble – your advertising with them may become less effective or some may close their doors altogether.
  • Google Analytics will now not contain quite the level of granular detail about how Google search engine users interact with your site, though Google says their webmaster tools account will at least show the top 1000 keywords people use to visit the site.

If Google is only concerned about your privacy, then why do they…

Google’s PR angle is they are working towards a more secure and safer web. If that were 100% true though, why will this keyword data still be available to Google Adwords advertisers? Is Google just limited by technology, or are they really saying “We are for a more secure web… unless you pay us for the data”? The answer to this question may come if Google’s Enterprise (paid) Analytics product has referrer search data appear within it in the near future.

What can I do about Google’s switch to SSL?

While experts disagree on Google’s ultimate intentions with this move, the message to B2B advertisers is clear. Google is a publicly-traded company and has a primary obligation to maximize their shareholder wealth – not to represent your best interests.

1) You need a company who is on your side to represent you in the world of online marketing.

Google offers increasing amounts of one-stop methods for businesses to work with them, but could you fully trust a company who you pay per click for advertising while giving you little-to-no transparency into how these prices are set and then wants to give you advice for how to use their “black box” system?

Do you have the internal expertise to know when Google’s advice is bad for your business? here are a few examples of how not using an experienced B2B Internet Marketing agency can hurt you.

  • I’ve personally had several instances where Google reps offered to “help” us with campaigns for clients only to offer what I could call extremely questionable advice. Fortunately our experience led us to politely decline the offer. Google’s help at higher levels for the 1% of advertisers who supply 95% of Google’s revenue is “keys to the kingdom” spectacular in terms of access to information and flexibility on rules nobody else gets. If your company is not spending millions on Google though, you are left with at best new college grads (if you’re lucky enough to get a rep at all) or at worst overseas customer support copying and pasting sections of Google’s low-quality help documents in response to your pointed and situation-specific questions.
  • Default settings on Google Adwords will lose most companies a ton of money
    • Paid click quality so far on mobile search (minus searches for your brand) is very poor unless you are a local business with mobile-optimized pages and a  razor-sharp website conversion rate.
    • Running ads all day doesn’t make sense for most companies as traffic in the middle of the night doesn’t do as well (though you should always test it).
    • Broad match default settings when adding keywords to Google Adwords campaigns puts your ads in front of all kinds of irrelevant searches.
    • Google used to make it easy to add various types of negative keywords to help refine your campaign. The feature worked great, but Google soon removed the automatic process so it is substantially more time-consuming for advertisers to optimize their campaigns.
Bottom line – Companies like us stay on top of this information and are paid by your business to look out for your business’ best interests. Use one of them, even if it isn’t us.

1) Invest in SEO Right Now

This loss of referrer data currently affects just 7% of Google users but will likely expand if the test is successful. Bing now powers Yahoo results you can expect SSL in the near future for them as they play catch-up with the search giant. This process may take some time, but not as much as many may expect. For this reason your company should invest as much as they can to get SEO campaigns going and mine as much referrer data as possible before the full switch to SSL. This data will be a long-term asset to help your business understand how search users react to your website. You can then make improvements which show up in bottom-line profits.

3) Consider moving your website to SSL

Delivering your website via SSL may

  • keep the referrer data coming through to your site. SSL to SSL still passes data whereas SSL to non-SSL does not
  • slightly lift your conversion rate of visitors to leads by increasing customer confidence
  • keep you ahead of the curve when it comes to fearmongering in political circles about the security of the web

Want to know more about how to apply SSL to your site? Give us a call.

4) Watch the upcoming features of Google Analytics enterprise

Buy it if Google Analytics Enterprise keeps referral data and your company can profitably make use of this data to improve your business.

5) Invest in Google Adwords – starting today

Google increasingly squeezes data solely into the hands of their paid advertisers.

  • Search referrer data as mentioned in this article still passes to Adwords advertisers.
  • Google’s public keyword tool is notoriously inaccurate – The only way to get exact search data is by running ads.
  • The only way to truly control where visitors end up is through Adwords.

Google Adwords is a phenomenal marketing tool for most advertisers – access to valuable data, incredible control over who sees your ads, and practically instant traffic.

An optimized Adwords campaign should be a piece of your online marketing portfolio not just because Google is limiting referrer data, but because what you learn with Adwords can be rolled out to the rest of your online marketing pieces. It is almost like a marketing laboratory where you can eliminate most of the variables which can’t be eliminated with other marketing channels like print, TV, radio, cold calling, etc.

Google Adwords also gives our business models gives us a look into the future regarding our business. Let’s say a  company is ranked #1 for “blue widgets”

  • They may be doing SEO, or they may have gotten lucky with good media attention for something they did
  • Or, they may have just gotten on the web early and gained some early-adopter advantages.

The problem is you can’t really tell if it’s profitable for them or not so following their lead may or may not be valuable.

On the other hand…. Let’s say we are bidding on a phrase “blue widgets”. All the other companies are able to bid $5 or more per click, have been bidding this amount for months, and we just can’t make the campaign profitable. What to do?

We then look at how the competitors monetize their traffic. Hmm…

  • Their sales funnel offers more upsells and even downsells online and/or offline.
  • They have an autoresponder which sends 45 messages in 90 days offering information and selling various products with a non-corporate-sounding appeal.
  • Their website is less cluttered and seems to have very persuasive copy.
  • ‘Their downloadable collateral has better calls to action.

If a company can pay more on Adwords over a long period of time, it is because (usually) they make more from their traffic than you do. Following clues left by long-running ad campaigns in competitive markets gives you company access to the information you need to set off a chain reaction which literally crushes your competition

  1. Company A improves their front-end conversion rate of visitors to leads while also improving their lifetime value of customer
  2. Company A can now pay more for traffic than competitors because they make more from the traffic
  3. Company A now dominates paid search results and banner space on related websites so they get even more traffic and more revenue
  4. Company A gets more news media attention and free PR because of their extra visibility (not “fair” perhaps, but part of human nature). More traffic and more profits. Their available budget to acquire more traffic grows even larger
  5. It eventually becomes more profitable for Competitor B to sell traffic to Company A versus keeping the traffic for themselves
  6. Company A absorbs increasing amount of competitors and 3rd party advertising real estate on the web
  7. Company A becomes 800 lb gorilla in the market and is essentially unmovable like a Walmart, Google, etc.

Next Step for B2B Businesses

If you’ve looked at implementing SEO or advertising Google Adwords but haven’t yet because it looks too complicated or costly, contact us for a quick and free initial consultation. We have years of experience in the trenches developing customized direct-response B2B advertising to generate sales and leads. We’ve also be tasked with the challenge of turning pre-existing campaigns which were “money pits” into “cash cows”. We have a system which achieves these goals and can make it work for you as well. Contact us for an initial consultation so we can learn about your business goals and develop a plan to help get you there.

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