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6.3.12

Google “Search Plus Your World” To Launch Beyond US? Likely, As Secure Search Set To Expand


Google has announced that by default, it will begin encrypting search beyond Google.com in the coming weeks. Since the reason Google uses secure search is primarily to enable its “Search Plus Your World” personalized results, this means SPYW is likely to expand beyond the US. It also means that search marketers can expect the percentage of “not provided” data they see to greatly increase.

Secure Search = Search Plus Your World
Last October, Google changed things so that anyone logged into Google.com would be searching through a secure connection. That was positioned as a move to increase privacy. It prevented others from “eavesdropping” on what someone might be searching for.
In January, it became clearer why blocking eavesdropping threats was so important to Google. Google launched its new “Search Plus Your World” service, which potentially generated more searches that might reveal information about particular searchers who could be identified. Secure searching was necessary to prevent very personal searches from being inadvertently revealed.

At launch, Search Plus Your World was only offered to those searching at Google.com and in English. Since secure searching was a precursor to Search Plus Your World, any expansion of secure search can be seen as a harbinger that SPYW will expand.

Where will it come to? From the blog post:

We’re now ready to expand this protection, so over the next few weeks we will begin introducing SSL search beyond google.com to our local domains around the globe.

By “local domains,” Google means country-specific versions of Google, such as google.co.uk (Google UK) or google.fr (Google France) as opposed to Google.com, which is mostly used by those in the US though also available to a worldwide audience.

Chances are, we’ll see Google release Search Plus Your World to country-specific domains with heavy English-speaking audiences (such as the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada), then domains with non-English languages are likely to follow. That’s been the case with some other Google products that have initially started out targeting English speakers using Google.com.

As an aside, Search Plus Your World was down for several hours today. Google tells us it was a temporary bug, and it’s now working again. Google also tells us about any expansion plans:

We’re working to launch Search plus Your World internationally, but have nothing further to announce at the moment. This change is about improving the privacy and security of users’ search results.

Not Provided Withholding To Grow
The change to secure search also meant that Google no longer provided publishers with the search terms someone used to reach their sites, except for ads that publishers and others may have placed. This raised issues ranging from anti-trust implications to hypocrisy the Google cared about privacy up to the point where it hit the company’s bottom line.

The stories below explain this all in more depth, and I’d strongly encourage you to read them:
  • Google Puts A Price On Privacy
  • 2011: The Year Google & Bing Took Away From SEOs & Publishers
  • Google’s Results Get More Personal With “Search Plus Your World”

Google initially said that publishers would see data withheld for “single-digit” percentages of their Google search-related visits. In short order, plenty of publishers found more than 10% of searches were being withheld. These “not provided” searches, as Google Analytics reports them, will only increase as part of the coming secure search rollout.

Privacy Loophole Remains
The last article in the list above has a section explaining how withholding search term data from non-advertisers still left privacy loopholes. As I wrote:

Today’s change does nothing to change my view that Google needs to revisit the referrer blocking and either make it a block for everyone, including advertisers, or find a better way to filter search terms that get made visibile in various ways.

For all Google’s talk in today’s blog post about how SSL encryption will be expanded beyond Google.com to “increase the privacy and security of your web searches,” it continues to deliberately leave a loophole that benefits itself directly and its paid advertisers. That’s disappointing.

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