It has been the biggest mainstream story about the internet this year, but it is only now beginning to have a serious impact on internet marketing. The revelation that the NSA has been spying on internet activity, and possible gaining access to Microsoft and Google’s networks, has seen an increasing switchover to the use of encryption. Google has already encrypted all its search data and now it seems that Bing and other Microsoft search systems are about to follow suit.
Yahoo currently offers encryption for searches on an optional basis, but the fact that it uses Bing for queries means it could end up shifting over to encryption as a default or even mandatory feature if Microsoft does.
How does this affect marketers?
It has a significant impact on access to keyword data. A limited amount of data is available through Google AdWords, but the only way to extract information such as that which search engine optimization techniques relied on in the past is to invest in paid search.
This raises questions as to whether there is also a financial motive behind the changes. If Google stands to profit from nudging more marketers toward paid search, Microsoft has two options: maintain the status quo and thereby encourage marketers to lend their support as it aims to gain a larger share of the market or, as it has nothing to lose by doing so, adopt the same strategy and thus stand a chance of increasing its profits even if its market share stays the same.
What are the alternatives for marketers?
This depends, to an extent, on what everybody else does. If the uptake of paid search by competitors in any given industry is slow, there is no particular disadvantage to be found in disdaining precise keyword data and instead working out what is likely to be getting hits by looking at how different sites and different pages on the same sites rank compared to one another. If the market is too fierce to take a chance on being less precise, it is worth remembering that paid search is not an all or nothing proposition; it is possible to invest in it at a low level and still get access to that useful data.
Microsoft executives will decide this week on what they are going to do about encryption; if it does not come in now, the likelihood is that sooner or later it will. It is time to think seriously about how to handle this.