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October 26, 2011

Google Good or Evil?

Google Implements SSL and hides search referral data from Internet Marketers!

A step in the right direction towards making the Internet less “big brother”? As Internet marketing analysts and specialists write angry blog posts, I’m relieved. The Internet just became more private. It may surprise you that an Internet Marketing Analyst feels this way about Google trying to hide search referral data.

What is SSL?

The acronym stands for “Secure Sockets Layer” which is a way of privately transmitting data through the Internet. Basically, when you are logged into your Google account and execute a search, it will prevent your search query from being grabbed by the website result you eventually click on.

Internet Marketing Just Got Harder

Internet marketing is rife with snake oil salesmen: businesses who promise the world based on little more than a grouping of keywords and magical thinking.  I’ve been optimizing web sites for search engines for a long time and have yet to see magical thinking attain a Google page 1 listing. Have you heard this sentence before, “I will get you #1 position for  keyword x”?  This is the wrong question asked in the wrong way about the wrong thing. Why focus on a keyword??  Keywords don’t kill business, people do. You hire us to increase your business.  Focusing on a keyword’s rank and not the bottom line is how businesses die.

Once your company’s, brand’s or product’s unique selling proposition (USP) is defined, your creation story written and macro strategy outlined, keywords can be placed in context. Keyword research is not fun. Researching keywords requires patience, determination and experience. It may be difficult for you to target specific keywords to optimize, because they are “red oceans” (competition is intense). The good news is EVERYONE ELSE is having the same problem.

Google makes changes all the time. Everything we know can change any minute. “This,” as Mr. Pacino so aptly stated in GodFather III, “is the business we’ve chosen.” During my Atlantic BT tenure in Raleigh, we’ve pivoted many times. SSL becomes just another turn, another rule in an ever changing game.

SSL and Search Retargeting

What is search retargeting?  Retargeting is when a company sells your personal and private data gathered when you visit a site via a “cookie”.  Ever had that eerie feeling of a company following you as you traverse the world wide web?  Google’s SSL implementation reduces the footsteps by hiding data from the companies who were  following you.

How search retargeting works:

1.  I type “best basketball shoes” into Google and visit www.about.com.

2.  www.about.com assigns a cookie telling a cookie repository I searched for “best basketball shoes”.

3. Simpli.Fi, Rocket Fuel, or another search retargeting company buys my cookie data from a vendor such as Blue Kai.

4.  Nike works with the search retargeting company that then shows you their basketball shoe ads on advertisement exchange networks encompassing almost  85% of the internet.

5.  Result: My search  information was just sold to the highest bidder!

Putting all eggs in ONE basket?

Google’s SSL changes open online marketers’ eyes, forcing more creative solutions to grow client business.  Google wants to make the search experience better.  Is Google’s SSL change good or evil?  The good or evil question is moot, like most things GOOGLE, this latest change, this SSL change, simply IS. If Internet marketing was the same all the time, it would be less interesting and not as fun. Internet marketing is building castles on the beach as fast as humanly possible and with the inevitable mean regression already in mind. The next time some snake oil salesman promises a #1 listing on an intensely competitive keyword, ask them about their sand castle building philosophy.


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