WordPress and Encrypted Search Terms?

Written by | Date Updated: December 11, 2014
encrypted search terms WordPress

WordPress Stats: Encrypted Search Terms

Question: Why am I seeing encrypted search terms in my WordPress Stats? I always use to see all of the keywords that people would use to find my pages. Now, I see just a few keywords and the one with most hits just says “encrypted_search_terms”. What is going on? -Catie, Bethesda, MD

Encrypted Search Terms: The Good, The Bad, And The…Future

Catie, this is a great question and one that many people have asked.

The reason that you are seeing “encrypted_search_terms” in your WordPress stats is because Google is now showing “encrypted_search_terms” for anybody accessing your site while logged in to their Google account.

For example, if I visit Google right now, I will be automatically logged in with my Google account (you can circle me on Google+ for great online marketing information). While logged in, if I search Google and your site is returned in the results, you will not see the search terms that I used to find your site. Instead, you will see encrypted_search_terms.

The one exception to this is if I clicked one of your Google Ads placed with Google AdWords. When an ad is clicked, you will still be able to see the search keywords used to access your site.

Encrypted Search Terms: The Good

Catie, while many people are bemoaning that they are seeing too many “encrypted_search_terms”, you can view this as a good thing. Why are WordPress encrypted search terms a good thing?

It’s simple really. The more encrypted_search_terms that you see in your site stats signals more visits from Google. This is a great thing because, obviously, Google is the 300 pound gorilla.

Encrypted Search Terms: The Bad

The bad thing about not seeing search terms is self-evident: You can no longer see what search terms that people are using to access your site in your WordPress stats panel.

However, you can still see the keywords that people use to access your site. To do this, you need to use the Google WebMaster Tools. This tool will allow you to see the top searches to your site. While the keyword search information that you see in the Google WebMaster Tools is not ideal, this tool provides a wealth of information and you will realize many other benefits. Certainly though, it inconveniences all of us to not have this information readily available in our WordPress stats.

Many people have speculated that Google made this modification to force people to use their WebMaster tools. While this may have been one reason, I don’t think that it is the primary one.

Personally, I believe that Google did this to make some positive privacy claims (“look, we don’t report search terms anymore”) and to deter web administrators from over-focusing on and over-analyzing search terms. If you think about it, this real time information gave lots of ammunition to reverse engineer Google algorithmic tendencies. Without this information, it becomes slightly more difficult.

Encrypted Search Terms: The Future

Catie, one figure that you will often hear is this: These “encrypted search terms” will be a small percentage of your stats…probably between 1-10%.

This is not true and becoming less true everyday!

If you have read our article on Google Authorship, you know that Google’s strategy is to have everyone on Google+. And, what happens when everyone is on Google+? They are logged in to their Google account.

This tells us about the future of these encrypted search terms. If Google realizes their goal–everyone moving to Google+, and maintains their search engine supremacy, you will see a consistently escalating percentage of encrypted search terms.

Don’t be surprised if these encrypted search terms represent more than 50% of your site stats in the near future!

Readers, what do you think? Are you seeing lots of encrypted search terms in your WordPress stats? What percentage of the overall keywords do they represent? Sound off in the comments below!

Richard Cummings

Director of SEO, Social Media, and Web Content Development at The SEO System
Richard Cummings has been practicing online marketing for many years and has setup and optimized hundreds of WordPress sites.He founded The SEO System to provide SEO, social media, and online marketing services and software to businesses.
Richard CummingsWordPress and Encrypted Search Terms?