November 25, 2011

This explains why Google dropped out of my “referer site” log

Filed under: Administrivia, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:24

John Leyden explains how a change in the way Google handled search requests was reflected in my blog’s referer log by Bing suddenly becoming the top search engine for folks visiting Quotulatiousness:

Google made secure search the default option for logged in users last month — primarily for privacy protection reasons. But the move has had the beneficial side-effect of making life for difficult for fraudsters seeking to manipulate search engine rankings in order to promote scam sites, according to security researchers.

Users signed into Google were offered the ability to send search queries over secure (https) connections last month. This meant that search queries sent while using insecure networks, such as Wi-Fi hotspots, are no longer visible (and easily captured) by other users on the same network.

However Google also made a second (under-reported) change last month by omitting the search terms used to reach websites from the HTTP referrer header, where secure search is used. The approach means it has become harder for legitimate websites to see the search terms surfers fed through Google before reaching their website, making it harder for site to optimise or tune their content without using Google’s analytics service.

I’d assumed that there had been some kind of change in the way Google was handling searches, because even though Google pretty much disappeared from my logs (having been the #1 referring site forever), the volume of traffic remained about the same.

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