In the near future you may log into your website traffic reports to see that your search engine traffic has dropped off to some degree. You may be searching for a reason why this happened. Was I penalized? Were my rankings effected? In this article I’ll explain why a recent change the search engines have made is most likely the culprit for the traffic drop.
Some time ago Google announced that due to reasons of privacy they’d be moving to secured search to protect the personal data people provide when searching. While the motivations can be debated (for instance, you can still access personal information if you pay for a PPC account), Google did allow those searches to still appear as non-paid, organic traffic in reports.
In January 2014 both Bing and Yahoo have announced that they will follow Google’s lead by switching to secure search. The kicker here is that while Google engineered this in a way to allow referrer data to pass, and Bing and Yahoo have not. So what does this mean?
It means that in the near future when you log into whatever reporting software you use you’ll see two things:
1) Your non-paid organic traffic has dropped because both Bing and Yahoo will no longer be counted
2) Your direct traffic has gone up.
In theory you could monitor the increase in direct traffic during that switch and attribute some of that increase to non-paid search traffic, but any estimation would be far from perfect. I haven’t read anything that would indicate that this traffic will be able to be tracked moving forward.
The good news is that the majority of search traffic comes from Google. The market share between the search engines hasn’t changed enough to warrant any sort of panic here. But any SEO that has a client who gets a fairly even split will want to warn that client as soon as possible that this change is coming.
The value of search marketing hasn’t changed, but this is another step toward “TV marketing”; you know it has a benefit but you cannot draw a direct link between keywords, visits and purchases.