The vast majority of marketers who use SEO to get traffic to their sites, or even those learn more about their customers gather information using the “meta referrer” tag.  For those who don’t know, this is the tag which allows analytics software to see where a user came from.  If, for example, a user is browsing and clicks one of our links to another site, that site could see that a user came from this site.  This information can be extremely valuable in evaluating where to focus link building efforts, and even where to buy advertising.

The problem with gathering this type of information in the past has always been that not all traffic used it.  One large source of traffic which marketers were left in the dark from was anything coming from Apple’s Safari using iOS 5 and 6.  Apple did not support the Meta Referrer tags, and therefore marketers could not see where this type of traffic came from.  According to a recent post on Search Engine Land, Apple will be fixing this problem with the release of iOS 7.  And the SEOs of the world celebrated.

Don’t put on those party hats just yet, however, because with this one big step forward, there is another huge step back for tracking this information.  Facebook also announced that they will begin make secure browsing the default option while navigating their site. This was formerly an opt-in option which a fairly small percentage of people actually used.  While using the HTTPS rather than HTTP browsing certainly does have some benefits for the actual users, it causes some problems for marketers.

One main problem is, as you may have guessed, it doesn’t pass information from the Meta referrer tag.  This means for the majority of traffic coming from the social networking giant, it won’t be possible to see where it is coming from.  Any paid advertising purchased on Facebook, of course, will continue to provide tracking options from within Facebook’s advertising interface, which might encourage more marketers to take advantage of paid options.  Given Facebook’s less than stellar reputation for ensuring user privacy, this may have had more to do with their decision to go secure with all their browsing than actual concern for their users.

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