This is one big news – for the search industry. The Firefox browser used by 25% of internet users is going to use Google’s secure search by default. This means users are better secured as nobody except Google will know what they are searching for.

On the flip side, the website owners and publishers will lose vital information regarding the referring keywords. The ability of site owners to know how people found them will be reduced with this move by Firefox. The only people who can know what a person keyed in to arrive at their site are Google advertisers and users of Google Webmaster Central.

Firefox has been quoted as saying that they are currently testing the change to use SSL for built-in Google searches. After testing, the change will be introduced in a few months and will be shipped to all Firefox uses including the non-English version of Firefox, as well.

This change was noted by Christopher Soghoian in his blog. He is known for his active support of better privacy for users.

It All Began With Google’s Encrypted Search:

In October 2011, Google announced that signed in Google uses will have secure searching-HTTPS as their default. Google introduced this change in order to better the customization for every user and protect personalized search results. Now, the users signed in to Google had their search queries encrypted. Once this was announced, it was discussed very ardently that the secure search be made as default for Firefox users. At that time, Google’s Langley welcomed the switch from Firefox.

What It Means For The Users:

Firefox users are more secure while online now. There will be no more scope of ‘eavesdropping’ as outsiders won’t be able to see what is being searched for. What a user searches for will be known only to Google and the user. Only the Google’s advertisers and those who use Google Webmaster Central will have access to the keywords typed in by the users.

For a user, these exceptions are small privacy risks but they should understand them well.

Internet experts believe that searching is more secure now with the encrypted search service from Google and this switch to HTTPS browsing by Firefox. But there is referral data available to advertisers and this loophole needs to be taken care of so that a user enjoys fully protected privacy.  

Bad News For Publishers/ Site Owners:

Search experts working on their site will lose more of their referrer data. It has been seen that more and more (up to 20%) search queries now fall under in “not provided” category as Google secures the users’ privacy. With Firefox changing toGoogle SSL Search, site owners will not get lesser search data. They would have only 30 days of data on a long-term basis through Google Webmaster Central to fall back on.

Webmasters have been requesting Google to provide data for a longer period than 30 says and Google advertisers after having lost the “free” listing data are also asking for longer duration of search data provided.

When Google announced its move to encrypted data, with referrals only for advertisers, it caused a huge protest from the search industry, which stood to lose its keyword data. Google responded by saying that at that time only a small amount of search data will be affected.

But now with Firefox to shift to Google Secure search by default, a lot of keyword and user data will not be provided by webmaster and search experts.

As a search professional, how do you plan to deal with this huge loss of keyword data? Will Google provide some other way? Do share your views.


Navneet Kaushal is the Editor-in-Chief of PageTraffic Buzz. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet is also the CEO of SEO Services company PageTraffic which is one of the leading search marketing company in Asia.