Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in a blog post Monday describes how the company will encrypt all information moving between Yahoo data centers, and plans to give users an option by the end of Q1 2014 to encrypt all data flowing to and from Yahoo.
What will the change mean for search engine marketers? Kevin Lee, Didit founder, agrees that the decision seems much more focused on email communications and Yahoo Mail, as a result of the National Security Administration (NSA) leaks and telephone tapping -- but it could become the first in a wide spread move to "protect" consumer data.
Aside from extending efforts across all its products, Yahoo will work closely with international Mail partners to ensure co-branded Mail accounts are https-enabled with Secure Sockets Layer encryption, 2048-bit key across its network by January 8, 2014.
"While she doesn't specifically mention the loss of keyword data via a 'not provided' situation [similar to Google's stance] on keywords, the statement is broad enough that there may indeed be yet another loss of organic data if Yahoo decides to keep keyword data to itself, organic and possibly even paid," Lee said.
Some marketers believe that Mayer, former Google engineer, will follow Google's move to secure Gmail user data. "It is a feel-good move to offer users a sense of security," said Janel Laravie, founder of Chaka Marketing. "This just complicates the deciphering process, rather than making it impossible, for the NSA. The more secure users feel, the more accessible they are to advertising, and advertising dollars are the key motivators for Google and Yahoo.
Others think there's a chance Yahoo will follow Google and stop providing keywords as a lead. If Yahoo's efforts to more securely manage their data include the encryption of organic search terms, similar to the way Google does, it would be another blow to successful search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, according to Josh Dreller, director of marketing at Kenshoo.
"Although companies can still optimize their Web pages for organic listings in other ways, leveraging the granular insights of Web site visitor performance down by keyword has been at the core of effective SEO for the last decade," he said. "Since Google began encrypting terms more than a year ago, search marketers have become more reliant on organic keyword data from Yahoo and Bing to optimize their sites."
Dreller said now that Google blocks virtually 100% of organic keyword data, the possibility that Yahoo would also turn off that data stream would signal a significant change for all SEO. Some speculate the lack of this crucial data could lead to a migration of SEO dollars to paid search, where Google continues to pass both the original query and the keyword which triggered the ad in which a consumer eventually clicked. In fact, one of the ways that SEOs plan to harvest keyword insights is through paid engine platforms as a proxy for organic performance, he said.