6 MINUTE READ | March 6, 2014
Yahoo Slowly Rolling Out Secure Search & "Not Provided"
The past few weeks have been a little interesting for us data analyst SEO types. Remember that story about Yahoo going Secure Search on March 31, 2014? Well, get ready because it’s almost here, and we are starting to see the effects.
Since the beginning of February, we have seen non-paid organic Visits/Visitors/Session data from Yahoo experiencing a gradual decline. Around the same time that we saw the Yahoo organic data declining, we started to notice a new Yahoo subdomain — r.search.yahoo.com — showing up as a Referrer and/or Referring Domain. It looked to us like the decrease in Yahoo organic Visits lined up with the increase in Visits from r.search.yahoo.com on the referral side of things. Now that it has been a few weeks, we can really look at the data and get a better idea of what’s going on.
Here is a screenshot from Google Analytics from one of my personal websites (read: this is not client data). GA has two distinct buckets for non-paid organic Yahoo search Visits [Note: I filtered for ‘yahoo’ in the Source/Medium of the ‘All Traffic’ report]:
Two distinct buckets for Yahoo organic Visits
So it’s pretty clear that Google Analytics is seeing the Visits from r.search.yahoo.com, but GA is not attributing those Visits to the standard Yahoo/Organic channel.
Next, this graph shows when GA began recording Visits from the r.search.yahoo.com subdomain:
The r.search.yahoo.com trend begins on Feb. 4, 2014
Based on all the data we are seeing across several websites, this trend began on Feb. 4, 2014.
So it’s obvious that Google Analytics is not segmenting this data into the Yahoo/Organic bucket. But what are the other analytics platforms doing with the same data?
Let’s start with WordPress. I wouldn’t call WordPress an “analytics platform,” but they do have a nice little interface for viewing Visits data. I have the standard ‘WordPress.com Stats’ plugin installed. Don’t worry – it’s not some custom installation or anything. For today, this is what I’m seeing in the Referrers report:
WordPress Stats shows 2 distinct buckets for Yahoo search Visits
Both Google Analytics and WordPress are picking up the Visits from r.search.yahoo.com, but neither is attributing them to the typical Yahoo/Organic channel. They are both segmenting it as a referrer. Now let’s check Omniture!
In Omniture, I found the r.search.yahoo.com data in the ‘Referrers’ report (Traffic Sources -> Referrers). On a side note: I could not find this data in the Referring Domains, Original Referring Domains or the Referrer Types reports. You might be able to find it in other sources, but I could not. My Omniture fu may be lacking today. At any rate, in the ‘Referrers’ report, I was able to find the data. Here is a graph of the top 5 referrers from r.search.yahoo.com:
I set the date range to Jan-1st – Mar-4th. I’m seeing the first Instances of data from r.search.yahoo.com appear on Feb-4th. So that lines up with Google Analytics and WordPress.
BTW in the ‘Referrers’ report in Omniture, I cannot add Visits, Revenue, or Transactions as metrics. I can only add Instances and Unique Visitors. This could be problematic, as I will need to re-attribute this data back to the organic channel.
So with GA, Omniture and WordPress lining up, one question remains: What about Coremetrics? Let’s take a look!
Coremetrics turned out to be a little tricky. I had to go to 3 different places in order to track down the data.
First, I went to Marketing Channels -> Natural Search -> By Search Engine. In this view, we see all the search engines that are driving organic sessions. The current view looked very typical. The r.search.yahoo.com data is obviously not being listed as a different search engine in here:
Marketing Channels -> Natural Search -> By Search Engine
Next, I went to Marketing Channels -> Referring Sites -> Default View. While there are a lot of yahoo.com subdomains in this view, there is no sign of r.search.yahoo.com or any of its data being attributed to the Referring Sites bucket:
Marketing Channels -> Referring Sites -> Default View
At this point, I was beginning to think that Coremetrics/IBM was actually bucketing the r.search.yahoo.com data correctly in the Natural Search -> By Search Engine report.
Finally, I surfed over to the view at Marketing Channels -> Natural Search -> By Keyword. I didn’t see anything in this data until I clicked the ‘+’ sign next to term not provided. That’s when I saw yahoo.com in the list – with a number of Sessions next to it! Check it out:
At this point, I decided to look at this table for two different time frames:
Jan. 1 – Feb. 3, 2014 (roughly the month before we first see data from r.search.yahoo.com)
Feb. 4 – Mar. 4, 2014 (the month after we started seeing data from r.search.yahoo.com)
I’m having to hide the data (for privacy sake!), but in this table, I have calculated the rise in Sessions coming from term not provided for Yahoo.com:
It’s a little blurry, but the % increase is BOLD!
It’s obvious that Yahoo is going ‘Not Provided’. They told us they are going to do that on March 31st. But the data from Jan-2014 and Feb-2014 lead us to that conclusion that Yahoo is already in the process of going secure search.
Google Analytics, Omniture/Adobe and WordPress Stats are not currently attributing the Yahoo secure search organic data to the Yahoo/Organic channel. Rather, they are segmenting that data into various Referring/Referral reporting views.
Coremetrics/IBM appears to be correctly attributing the Yahoo secure search organic data to the Yahoo/Organic channel. Furthermore, they are the only platform that shows a massive increase in keywords ‘Not Provided’ from Yahoo.
Given the fact that it’s only Mar-5th, I imagine that Google Analytics, Omniture/Adobe, Coremetrics/IBM, WordPress and all other Analytics platforms and tools will get this figured out sooner or later. Hopefully, it will all be sorted out for the Yahoo’s secure search delivery date (Mar-31st). Until then, make sure you are tracking down the Yahoo secure search data and re-attributing it to your organic data and reporting.
That’s it for me today.
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Posted by John Greer
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