Get ready to lose more organic search referral data: Yahoo! rolled out secure search as the default setting for Yahoo.com. Right now, secure search is default only on this domain, but according to Yahoo!, they are still in the process of rolling out the change. You can expect all Yahoo! properties worldwide to have secure search as the default setting by March 2014.

Searches done on Yahoo.com now go through secure servers by default

Searches done on Yahoo.com now go through secure servers by default

There was no official announcement on when this change was implemented, but Yahoo! moved their emails to secure servers on January 8. They may have started implementing the change around this time, although the tip given to MarketingLand says it’s recent.

No Search Terms, Referrers Passed

Unlike Google’s secure search feature, Yahoo!’s secure search does not relay any referrer data and keywords to analytics. This means instead of having a search appear as (not provided) as in Google, the data will appear as “direct” traffic, with Yahoo! seemingly losing its popularity as a search engine.

This is because Google’s secure search feature is more lenient than Yahoo!’s. Google structured their security to still allow some information to pass through to marketers (hence the “not provided” results), and for referrer and keyword information to still be available to paid advertisers. Yahoo!, on the other hand, only makes information available to paid advertisers. The company refused to comment any further at the moment, as they have stated the rollout is not yet complete; we may see some referrer data back and more (not provided) results once secure search is fully implemented throughout their properties.

Secure Search: A Review

For easy reference, here’s a review of which search engines offer what information:

  • Google – Secure search is the default setting. Referrers passed but stripped of search terms. Full information available to advertisers only.
  • Yahoo! – Secure search is the default setting. No referrers passed, except for paid advertisers.
  • Bing – Secure search is optional. No referrers passed.

You may also read my previous blog on how to address the loss of organic search referral data in your campaigns. Talk to your account manager today to find out how we track your campaigns accurately despite search engines’ move towards secure search.

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Clayton Wood

Clayton is the Marketing Director of SEOReseller.com and managing partner of numerous successful online brands offering white label SEO and other online marketing services.