Microsoft will begin encrypting all search traffic on Bing, making the intent and other signals related to the search query more important than keywords. The company made the move in support of the industry's decision to use TLS protocols as part of an effort to expand encryption across its networks and services.
Bing has been offering users the option to encrypt search traffic for about 1.5 years. This summer, it will begin encrypting search traffic by default.
Duane Forrester, senior product manager at Bing, in a blog post explains that Bing will continue to pass referrer string data, so marketers and webmasters can identify traffic coming from Bing -- but to further protect user privacy, it will not include the query terms used. "We will still provide some limited query term data available without compromising the security of customer data through our various webmaster and advertiser tools," he wrote.
While the change will likely impact marketers and webmasters in some way, Bing believes that providing a more secure search experience for their users is important. With this change, marketers will still see Bing as the origin or referrer of the encrypted traffic, although analytics tools used to analyze the traffic generally have their own way of including this information in their search reports.
The shift makes keywords less important, said Doc Sheldon, founder of Intrinsic Value SEO. He is not surprised by the change. "I think it's going to require us to evolve our thinking more rapidly, just like we did when Google started using not provided," he said. Sheldon doesn't support paid search, only search engine optimization, so he views it as a bit "more challenging, but not insurmountable."
Sheldon stopped using "keyword" research as a "finite tool a while back, and now I do query research looking at all aspects of a query data, such as classification and location," he said. Gathering some of the information could become more difficult, but also much more important, he said.
Search experts will need to take some of the same steps they implemented when Google stopped providing keywords. There are other things that experts can do to get some of the data.
Of course, he said, initially it "was a big hit, because I had become pretty dependent on that data. Finding ways around that was challenging, but ended up leading me to concern myself more with the nature of the query than with the terms."