Google SSL keeps everything a secret

Google announced a secure version of their search, located at https://www.google.com. This is great if you’re worried about the black helicopters, but for analytics, this is very not great at the moment.

As good buddy and coworker Brian Ussery pointed out yesterday, when you come from https, for security reasons, your referral data is NOT retained. This means that if people search and find your site on Google SSL, you’ll never know that they came from search — they’ll appear to be direct traffic to your site.

The exception to this rule is if they click on a paid search ad that has your campaign parameters (or auto-tagged GCLID parameter) present. They will then be recorded as paid search.

I’d recommend that in the next month or so, you take a look at what percentage of your paid search is coming from Google SSL to get a feel for whether your users are taking advantage of this new offering. If you’re getting a significant percentage of traffic from the https site, you may infer that users are also generating natural search traffic from the same site, while you’re blind to it.

A good way to go about this would be to write a little script that looks at document.referrer. If it is blank (or your own site), but the URI has GCLID or utm_* parameters present, drop a note in your custom variable to identify that visit as coming from Google SSL. After a few weeks, you’ll have a good idea of what percentage of your paid search traffic is coming from the secure site vs the folks coming from regular Google, or ReGoogle.

I am making up words now so I can take credit for them in 5 years.

Go take a look at Brian’s blog post, and the rest of his blog, which is pretty excellent.


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  1. One more little comment for OMTR clients – you can look at whatever campaign parameter you have in your own destination URLs. This is not specific to Google Analytics. You can write a similar solution to populate an evar. I wrote a note to @omniturecare, who will hopefully describe a good way of going about this in the comments.

    Posted May 25, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink