Mozilla’s latest upgrade to the Firefox web browser, Firefox 14, officially launched on July 17th and brought with it a number of desirable new features. These features, however, can have some not-so-desirable consequences for data analytics.
One of the more notable changes (from both the user and the marketer’s perspective) is that Firefox will now encrypt all searches made through the location bar, search box, and right-click menu using Google SSL search.
By enabling secure search as a default for users searching on Firefox, Mozilla aims to provide a more secure web browsing experience, shielding users from unwanted snooping on public and shared WiFi networks.
One of the major downsides of this change is that secure search prevents user search terms from being tracked by third-party technologies, taking away key analytics marketers and advertisers have depended on to drive their campaigns and maximize key performance indicators (KPIs).
Coping With The Loss Of Information
Moving forward, marketers must evolve their strategies concerning keyword targeting and utilize other approaches to compensate for this loss of information.
With the implementation of SSL search, Google estimated that approximately 10% of traffic coming through the search engine would no longer pass on valuable keywords that marketers have come to rely on. Recent proprietary data coming out of Chitika Insights found that the proportion of searches which no longer pass query and other information to third-parties is actually closer to 23%.
These figures pale in comparison to the portion of user queries on Firefox that run through Google’s SSL search. Currently, 40% of all searches on earlier versions of Firefox are obscured and protected from third-parties (not including Google). This high volume is supported by Mozilla’s 3-year, $1 billion contract with the search engine giant to use Google as the default search engine for the browser.
It May Be Even Worse Than You Thought
For all of you marketers out there shaking your head in misery, contemplating future complications revolving around user intent and driving actions, I fear I may be about to add insult to injury. The latest data coming out of Chitika Insights found that 75% of all searches on Firefox 14 are protected through SSL search, an 87.5% increase over previous Firefox versions.
For those of you curious about the data and methodology: Chitika Insights collected the data for this study from the Chitika Ad Network. The sample size was composed of millions of impressions, more than enough to guarantee statistical significance. It is also worth noting that this sample was drawn exclusively from the US and Canada, and therefore represents English speaking, North American traffic, and should not be interpreted as the basis for global assumptions.
However, do not fret; all hope is not lost. There are a number of strategies marketers can employ to compensate for the loss of insight into user intent.
1. Utilize Google Webmaster Tools to analyze action-driving queries. Google Webmaster is one of the only remaining tools that allow marketers to see the most popular search terms that are driving traffic and clicks.
Webmaster Tools allows users to monitor the top search terms people have used to reach your site over the past thirty days. While this may not be a perfect solution, grouping and analyzing keywords and the most popular variants can provide awareness into what drives traffic and user actions.
2. Engage in paid search campaigns using Google AdWords. Google AdWords allows you to purchase ads and see which search terms people use when clicking on those ads.
While this may not provide the whole picture, this method can take you a long way toward understanding what drives user actions when running a campaign. Marketers can also use this information when engaging in SEO to maximize their success.
3. Contemplate search on mobile. Mobile users have different behaviors, follow different trends, and are expected make up an increasingly large share of search and web usage as we move into the future.
Focusing on mobile can provide marketers with valuable information on what mobile users are interested in, their desires and needs, as well as what drives their behavior. Marketers should engage in mobile campaigns as they can facilitate the keyword discovery process, and help increase overall campaign ROI.
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