Getting The Search Term From Clicks From Google SSL

Written 14 years ago by Mike Cardwell

Google released an SSL protected version of their search site the other day -

You can now perform the simple task of sitting on an untrusted network like a cafes open wifi, and perform a Google search without having your search terms/results sniffed. Some people have been complaining that this will damage/kill search analytics though. Here is a prime example. When you click a link on a HTTPS page which goes to a HTTP page, most browsers do not send the Referer header; most log analysers use the referer information to detect which search terms were used to bring the user to a webpage.

I say this is a good thing. It provides a further incentive for people to move their own websites over to using HTTPS. My website - does get the referer information when people click through, because I myself use HTTPS. I also see when people access my website from the SSL protected Google Reader and Google Mail because of this. I also see when people access my website from various other different SSL protected webmail interfaces, of which there are many.

Of course, Googles SSL site is still in Beta. One thing they could change is to add the search term to the query string with a special parameter. E.g if somebody searches for “Mike Cardwell”, instead of linking to:

it could link to something like:

This could even be configurable from Google webmaster tools.

I’d rather they didn’t though. Retaining access to Googles search information is exactly the sort of thing that might convince more webmasters to set up SSL.

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