Search Goes Stealth: How Google's Changes Impact Testing and Targeting

By Adam Figueira

October 19, 2011

"You can't shoot what you can't see." That one sentence captures the superiority of stealth technology on the battlefield. But make no mistake -- companies engage in combat as well, and among the most powerful weapons they possess are the data points that tell them:

  • Where prospects came from (search, Facebook, email, etc.)
  • Where prospects land
  • Where prospects go, and the actions they take
  • If from search, what queries prospects typed in

Yesterday, on this last point, the battlefield became foggy as Google announced changes to secure search that will prevent companies from fully understanding what prospects are typing in. Although the anticipated changes don't appear to affect paid search advertisers -- who will still see the query for each individual click (yet more evidence that AdWords continues to attack Organic Search) -- companies engaged in SEO efforts will no longer see the individual terms that attracted visitors to their websites and, as a result, which queries are more likely to drive key conversion events.

The impact of this change is more far-reaching, though. Without the ability to know what search query attracted the prospect on the website, targeting platforms will need to rely on other arrows in their quiver to drive relevant experiences to key audience segments. Remember -- you might not know the prospect's search query, but you'll still know vital data points like the traffic source, geography and landing page, to name just a few.

So, whether you're a military strategist or an online marketer, you face the same challenge to work with the resources and data that you do have—not what you wish you had. But you still can make the most of the visitor insights in hand to serve up more relevant shopping experiences that drive more sales.

What's your reaction? How will your online marketing efforts evolve once Google Search goes stealth?

Adam Figueira is a former product marketing director at Monetate.

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