Google Moves to Encrypt Searches by Default

Lyla Katz

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google has started encrypting search queries with Secure Socket Layer as the default experience when users are logged into their accounts to increase user’s privacy.

Secure Socket Layer encrypts web traffic to ensure user information and accounts are protected against hijacking, especially over unsecured WiFi networks.

While Google had rolled out encryption for web searches in the past, it had never made it the default option.

Some webmasters and SEO’s have expressed concern because the move doesn’t just encrypt the traffic, but also the queries themselves. At present, the majority of web browsers let a site know what page a visitor comes from using a 'referrer header.'

In the case of traffic from Google, this includes the search terms used to find the page. Referrer data is usually viewed as an important aspect of web analytics, and SEO-aware website owners often optimize their websites by tailor-fitting content to the demand according to search keywords.

With the new system, web analytics applications will tell a webmaster that the click came from Google, although no specific search keywords will be included.

Google said clicks from ads will still include referrer data, which should help website owners who use Google’s own AdWords system in promoting their sites. Beyond this, though, analytics programs will only include “Google.com.”

Google said the new system has been put in place to prevent “cloaking” which is sometimes used by websites to display sites that display the exact search keywords, but don’t necessarily contain relevant information.

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