Search engines are clawing back keyword referral data. But the SEO industry is far from powerless to respond.
As we all know, Yahoo has been moving towards secure search for all of their products. Most notably for SEO, this includes Yahoo Search.
Why does this matter? Simply put, secure search means the loss of our keyword referral data, just like we saw with Google and the ‘Not Provided’ results.
This reinforces the need to be tracking keyword visibility and traffic estimation at a large scale. It’s no longer possible for us to expect important keyword data to come via traffic logs, so we have to pro-actively source it all for ourselves.
USA is just the start
At the end of January 2014, we saw Yahoo make secure search the default for anyone who hit the Yahoo.com home page and performed a search. All outbound links from secure Yahoo SERPs are now being redirected through r.search.yahoo.com, which strips all referrers so you cannot identify traffic coming from Yahoo.
This means that anyone in the US who conducts a search at Yahoo.com will no longer pass any referrer information to the sites they visit from the search results.
“European and Asia-Pacific searchers will automatically be redirected to the HTTPS version of Yahoo.”
For now, this is only affecting US searchers, but it is coming to Europe and Asia-Pacific soon. As of March 1st, we’ve noticed that secure search is now optionally available for Yahoo’s European and Asia-Pacific. We’re fairly confident that this is part of their staged roll-out of secure search, and that we’ll soon see secure search becoming the default for Yahoo domains like Yahoo.co.uk, Yahoo.de, Yahoo.com.au, and others.
Once this happens, we expect that European and Asia-Pacific searchers will automatically be redirected to the HTTPS version of Yahoo, and that means that SEOs in those countries can kiss their referrer information goodbye.
Bigger data for a deepening crisis
This is just another development in a trend we’ve all been watching: keyword referrer data from search engines is a thing of the past. We must align our strategies to accept this fact and plan for the future.
Dealing with the loss of referrer data means that it is more important than ever for our industry to be actively tracking and monitoring keyword rankings on a large scale. It is no longer possible for us to guide our strategies or measure our success just by paying attention to a small number of highly targeted keywords.
SEO as a practice is primarily concerned with search engine traffic and conversions. But at its core, SEO starts with keywords and site visibility. Having large volumes of accurate, fresh SERP data is absolutely crucial to performance at all stages of the organic traffic funnel, from planning content strategy, to measuring our performance, to monitoring our competitors.