SEOs everywhere took a hit when Google encrypted all searches last year, swiftly destroying access to one of our most vital pieces of information: which keywords resulted in traffic. For a while it seemed that we could access that data—albeit only partially—on Microsoft’s Bing search engine, but as of Monday those times are a’changing too.
Bing now appears to support secure https:// search, though it’s optional and Bing has not made any moves to promote this feature as of yet. According to Search Engine Watch, being logged into your Microsoft account does not automatically encrypt your search data—unlike Google—and there aren’t any options to only use secure search…so far. Microsoft spokespeople speaking to Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land deferred the question, saying that the company is still evolving their HTTPS function and rolling out slowly.
But let’s face it: we know what’s coming. Right now, that (not provided) in Google Analytics is a continuous blow to the hard work of every SEO and webmaster out there; losing the keyword data from Google searches forced us to re-evaluate how we defined success and how we measured whether our efforts were working. While Bing’s market status in the US is tiny—barely over 18% of overall search traffic—it was one of the only ways to still grab keyword data. Bing hasn’t commented on whether they’ll yank keywords out of our hands completely, or whether they’ll be willing to include some enhanced keyword information in their Webmaster Tools. If they’re smart, they’ll throw a bone to advertisers, who may not be willing to place ads if they can’t get referral data. But I’m not holding my breath, and if Bing doesn’t take all searches to HTTPS within the year then I will eat a hat (as long as it’s made of cake or something).
As SEO continues to evolve and grow, we face new challenges as search engines become increasingly about people and less about algorithms. In the end, these roadblocks make us better marketers; we have to work for our links, but they’re higher quality. So throw on some Dylan and gather round, children; it’s time to admit that the waters around us have grown. Time to accept that soon we’ll be drenched with (not provided)–and that’s okay.