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Over the last two years the number of "keyword not provided" referrals from Google Search has grown to close to 30% for my websites. Google does not send the keyword in the referer URL when the user is logged into Google or searching Google via https.

I've heard rumors that if your entire site is https, Google does not withhold this referrer information from your website. When sending traffic to a https website Google will send the keyword, even when the user is logged in or using https on Google. Is this true?

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Can you explain a bit more your last question? Did you mean that if your website use https you will always have the keyword not provided? –  j0k Mar 12 '13 at 10:26
    
I've heard that if you use https the keywords from Google will always be provided. I'll update the question to make that clearer. –  Stephen Ostermiller Mar 12 '13 at 10:32
    
I will publish an update on one of my website soon, which will be fully https. When I will have enough data to answer your question, I can come back to tell you if this is true or not :) –  j0k Mar 12 '13 at 10:39

4 Answers 4

Yes. I've had to test this for a client website and the keyword data is passed with the referrer.

You can check it out your self by using the Google Chrome GA Debug Plugin here:

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/google-analytics-debugger/jnkmfdileelhofjcijamephohjechhna?hl=en

Or you could use Fiddler to see what is passed along with the header:

http://www.fiddler2.com/fiddler2/

Good luck =)

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Look at lush.co.uk –  Sandy Lee Mar 12 '13 at 15:46
    
Using https for a website used to be bad for SEO but these guys don't seem to be doing so bad =) –  Sandy Lee Mar 12 '13 at 15:47
    
I have now tested this myself, and this answer appears to be wrong. I have now posted my own answer to my question with data from my own tests: webmasters.stackexchange.com/a/47027/14543 –  Stephen Ostermiller Apr 8 '13 at 10:00
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Based on conflicting reports in other answers, I decided to test it myself. I started up Firefox with the Live HTTP Headers.

Then I went to Google (logged in, over https) and did a search for: https only website example

The first result in the search results is https://httpsnow.org/. Which is secure only. I clicked on it in the search results and used live http headers to record what happened:

https://www.google.com/search?q=https+only+website+example
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDMQFjAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fhttpsnow.org%2F&ei=6pJiUfLiMc_D4AOk_IGIBA&usg=AFQjCNF6xzmxiw4ko_9pC0KHSDU7qpcjmQ&sig2=RDWH8xFkPO2S1g_O1f7K7w
http://ocsp.startssl.com/sub/class2/server/ca
https://httpsnow.org/
    Referer: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDMQFjAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fhttpsnow.org%2F&ei=6pJiUfLiMc_D4AOk_IGIBA&usg=AFQjCNF6xzmxiw4ko_9pC0KHSDU7qpcjmQ&sig2=RDWH8xFkPO2S1g_O1f7K7w

By the time the referrer reaches the web site that I clicked on, it no longer contains the query. The q= parameter is blank. Google does not provide the keyword, even to https only sites.


This article outlines an easier way to test whether keywords are sent by search engine referrals:

  1. Search on Google for "what is my referrer" or "what is my secure referrer"
  2. Click on one the results that will tell you what referrer is passed
  3. See if the keywords are in the referrer URL

Using this methodology, I have once again confirmed that Google is not passing keywords to either insecure or secure sites.

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No, this is not the case. I manage several sites that are 100% https and others that are not. I still see a lot of "Not Provided" from Google in both cases. If someone is getting full referral data from Google they are doing something beyond making their site https.

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Do you get more data on the https sites? How many "not provided" do you get? –  Stephen Ostermiller Mar 12 '13 at 18:36
    
I don't believe I get any additional data. The sites have very different audiences so the % of not provided ranges from very small to significant. It also depends on which browsers people use some versions of FF and newer versions of Chrome I believe default to G's secure search which bumps up the % of not provided. But having my site HTTPS vs HTTP makes no difference in that respect as far as I can tell. –  Joshak Mar 12 '13 at 18:51

Anyone not familiar with the whole (not provided) issue in Google Analytics would be well advised to check out www.NotProvidedCount.com which nicely explains the whole thing and is tracking the state of the (not provided) situation across a number of sites.

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1  
That link is interesting, but I couldn't find anything on it about using https to recover some (not provided) keywords. Did I miss something? –  Stephen Ostermiller Mar 15 '13 at 14:45

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