On October 18th 2011, Google first brought in the concept of a “Not Provided”. What it meant was when a secure search was done on a Google page, the search term would just be grouped under a “Not provided” category and not be transferred to the destination page. People who are signed in and do a private search were assumed to be the ones contributing to the “Not Provided” category. Primary concern was privacy and Google addressed it for people who desired their searches to be private with this update, back then.
The recent change in the setup meant all the search terms were encrypted even if you are not signed in. This means that you do not have to make your search term private as it is not a choice anymore. This makes the search term irrelevant in any Analytics tool that you may be using and also result in more “Not Provided” terms being returned. You may also need to devise different ways to identify if the site content matches up with the incoming search terms.
The chart provided above is from notprovided and it shows the steep increase in the “Not Provided” counter. It shows that the week leading to the 7th Sep 2013 was around 49% and from there on was a steep rise to where it is now and at this rate it might hit the 100% mark by 20th Nov 2013.
Privacy seems to be the point Google is driving home with these updates and also seems like an aftermath of the Prism Scandal. Google was accused of providing data for the US National Security Agency in its spying activities. Though Google has blatantly denied all allegations, the dark tag associated, still sticks on. Other search engines like duckduckgo.com seem to cash in on these lapses by going on an all-out attack publicly to accuse Google of spying on people. The pages such as donttrack.us launched by duckduckgo.com do not help Google’s cause in any way. They even went to the extent of putting up a billboard given below:-
More than privacy, it does Google a world of good in terms of benefits. When a website knows what a person has searched upon, it can later check what the person did on you website. This level of tracking is impossible without access to the keywords they searched upon. Also when a user searches for a particular product, wherever he goes on the web the ad about the product follows. This can be termed as “retargeting” and without the keywords even this cannot be done.
Google has become much more competitive with these updates and has reduced any competition considerably in these areas. The impact of these changes would be realized in the months to come!!