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Google Analytics Keyword Not Provided

Keyword (Not Provided) In GA Keywords Report

You may or may not have noticed something fishy in your Google Analytics Keywords report recently. If you haven’t noticed, go into Google Analytics and do the following:

  1. Use the Non-Paid Search Traffic Advanced Segment
  2. Change the Date Range to 10/17 – 10-19
  3. Go to Traffic Sources > Sources> Organic
  4. Observe the top three or four keyowrds

Do you see it? If it’s not at the top, it’s in there somewhere. It’s a keyword called (Not Provided.)

Now, if you were training at an SEO event like I was on the 17th and then was out of the office (and largely offline) on the 18th or if you live under a rock somewhere, you might not have heard Google’s official announcement that they will no longer be providing keyword data for organic search results if the user is signed into their Google account.

It’s not just Google Analytics that will be denied this data. By “enhancing” their default user experience for signed in users, Google will be redirecting signed in users to https://www.google.com, thus encrypting the search results page. In analytics, you’ll still be able to see that these signed in users came from the organic search results, but instead of being able to see the actual keywords that they used, you’ll see all that data aggregated under (Not Provided.)

If you’re an SEO who uses the keywords report to prove the validity and efficacy of your work, you’re screaming and gnashing your teeth by this point. If you’re a causal analytics user, you may be asking the question “why do this?”

Well, obviously, it’s to protect the user: “As search becomes an increasingly customized experience, we recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver.” (excerpt from Google’s official statement)

In what way does hiding the queries that signed in users use to get to your site infringe upon their privacy since all the data is anonymous anyway? That’s a legitimate question by the way. Feel free to answer it in the comments! I’m curious what you all thing. And why, oh WHY are PAID search keywords not affected by this change.

That’s right. You can still see every single keyword that sent traffic through paid search, whether the user is signed in or not — just not organic search. Are users who click on paid search results less safe than users that click on organic results?

*Breathes Deeply*

Long Lasting Repercussions of Keyword (Not Provided)

Google claims that this change will affect only a small percentage of data, since only those who are signed into their Google account when searching will be “protected.” Well, I’m throwing down the benchmark here and now.
So far, since this change launched, LunaMetrics has seen 1% of our keywords clumped into (Not Provided.) A client with substantially larger organic search volume has already seen almost 2% of their organic keywords represented as Not Provided. We shall see how far-reaching these changes actually are in a few weeks when they’re rolled out completely.

Additionally, Google’s placation that only a small percentage of data will be affected because of the amount of people who search while NOT signed is cold comfort to me when they’re trying so very very hard to push the adoption of Google+ on the masses. If they have their way everyone would always be signed into their Google account when online.

I would love to hear the thoughts and concerns, and views of everyone else! Thanks!

http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/2011/10/20/google-analytics-keyword-not-provide/

30 Responses to “Google Analytics Keyword Not Provided”

Carlos says:

I think you hit the nail on the head: are paid click less “safe”?
And it’s not only G+, but with the massive adoption of Chrome, and the default setting that keeps you logged in, this segment is bound to grow.
What are they trying to protect us from?

Kevin Stecko says:

This is definitely a bad development for marketers. I’m at a loss to understand why they made this change other than to hurt sites that get most of their traffic organically.

Keith says:

Dang Carlos didn’t even think about that one. Sure the number of “logged in” users may be single digits now…

Reheen Guin says:

With no keyword data how to prove to the client that the SEO is working better than PPC?

Will this also impact visitors from Mobile devices (read Android).

Ilya Gnatiuk says:

At our main web-site with >20000 unique visitors a day (not provided) is on the 4th place already…

Olivia says:

Is the https currently restricted to Google.com? I’m based in the UK and the change has had about a 0.01% impact.

Ilya Gnatiuk says:

2 Carlos:

Well, I’ve just checked the browsers for the (not provided) segment and got the following picture:
Firefox – 47%.
IE – 26%.
Chrome – 22%.

Unfortunately, it’s not only Crhome… :(

Christina Keffer Christina Keffer says:

@carlos: You’re right! I hazard a guess it’s not at all about protection but instead about shoving users towards using adwords where you can still see that granular data…
@Kevin: See above. $$ yo.
@Raheen: Sometimes you’re signed in on your phone. If you use gmail in an app on your phone instead of signing into your browser, then it’s likely you’re not signed in when you search from your phone…but there are a million other reasons why you WOULD be signed in. Maybe one of the silver linings is that we can see how many people are signed in on their mobile devices when we segment out that traffic in GA.
@Olivia: They’re rolling out the change over a few weeks or something. As of yesterday, I didn’t notice the redirect either. (yet)

sarah says:

why this message is displaying in keyword column -

Avinash Kaushkik has provided an analytics segment so you can keep track of the (not provided) Tag.

Picture: from his +1 post.
https://plus.google.com/u/0/105279625231358353479/posts

Segment Capture – To Add the Segment to your Analytics Profile.
Log into Google Analytics first, then click on this link to download the report: http://goo.gl/UuKY0

Cliff says:

I have a different theory. I suspect that Google doesn’t want you using Keyword data to optimize your add spend on Facebook. By holding their Keyword Data close and only to paid adwords, they are protecting their interests. Since I’m totally new to SEO, I’m not sure this makes sense. But I have also noticed that when my site gets tons of traffic from facebook, my organic search results via google drop dramatically. There are other signs too, but I won’t get into that here. Again, I’m a noob, so that may just be a stupid conspiracy theory that holds no water.

John Reddan says:

We are determined to provide our users with the highest-quality web experience possible. Already we are seeing a lower than usual bounce rate from our organic visitors whose keyword entries are (not provided). This is really frustrating because that data would be incredibly helpful in our efforts to create a better overall user experience for everyone.

Given Google’s recent incentive (i.e. Panda) for websites to create a better user experience, it seems counterintuitive (not to mention counterproductive) to withhold this valuable information which we would most certainly use to achieve both Google’s and our own mission, namely to create the best possible user experience for our visitors.

Google, please change your mind on this.

Thanks and best,
John

Lauren says:

This is totally f-ed up. Google totally has the world by the “ba__s” Protect the user?? How about line their pockets. We’re already seeing 3-4%+ loss of visibility on some of our web properties. Ridiculous. How are they protecting me if there’s visibility to the keywords that are paid for but not for the ones I don’t pay for. The only thing they’re protecting is their profits.

Pauli says:

Here’s the most compelling explanation for this that I’ve yet run across. (from: http://www.pr2020.com/page/not-provided-google-analytics-keywords )

Joost de Valk (@yoast) takes Sullivan’s explanation a step further: “The real reason that Google might have decided to stop sending referral data is different [not about privacy]. I think it is that its competitors in the online advertising space … are using search referral data to refine their (retargeted) ads and they’re getting some astonishing results. In some ways, you could therefor [sic] describe this as mostly an anti-competitive move.”

Thank you for explaining about (not provided). Since, I am checking my blog analytic and I found this. However, this will eliminate the chance of webmasters to link their most top keywords to link with other places :(

Apart from this, how do I know about my best keywords that brings traffic, and I need to promote them?

Leslie says:

I hate to say it but I am glad this is what the (not provided) meant on my analytic reports. I started a new job as a SEO trainee on the 19th. That is when it started showing up on the reports. I was so worried I had done something wrong. But it does explain why I haven’t been able to show my boss an increase in any of his key phrases. It really is making me look bad.

Julian says:

Simple Answer. Google wants you to use adwords instead of using SEO companies. They don’t block ip address, only keywords… that makes sense

Bruce Cullen says:

The fact this is based on is $, Google is only making changes to produce more revenues, this could lead to be a major obvious problem for them soon. It’s all about investors and making them more $, that’s all.

Alex B. says:

We’re a small site. (Not Provided) is now my #1 Keyword. Google Search is 50% of my traffic. Some of my previous #1 keywords are #3 & 4…my results are obviouly being distorted.

amir says:

Thank you for the information, it’s still dark for me, I think that google is preparing the field to get more money, like you said, google+ is being more and more used by peoples, so far “not provided” will reach a high percentage, and the sollution is to switch “paid”, the story of personal security…….. I don’t feel it

you know what, I have had an idea just now, may be google have some security problemes, if the large amount of google analytics free users are anonymous, the paid ones are not because they give their real informations for paiment, so, google can track them if there’s a problem

zack says:

This sucks! I’m NEVER using Google again! (okay, I’m lying…but it really does suck)

weblack says:

Google does a lot of good things, we can’t deny that. Its search engine services are excellent, its other services are mostly very good and it still provides good analysis tools for web designers and others to make use of. Plus, the balance between user privacy and the business of the web is always a hard one to get right. Perhaps these changes will work out for the best. However, in the short term at least, it does seem like things are going to be a little trickier for many webmasters.

Livefish says:

I’m going to speculate that there may be another factor at play in this frustrating practice by Google. We know they’ve begun to experiment with displaying search results based not solely on a logged-in user’s search query, but also based in some way on his/her recent query history and/or behavior. If this is the case, it’s no longer just the phrase they queried at Google that brought them to your website, and G certainly isn’t going to provide details on the other factors. In any case, seems to me like serious damage to the value of Analytics, a key tool that I’m sure the vast majority of their paying customers are using.

Kelvin says:

Not sure how this will help to see hows going to my site, (not provided) is now #3 in keywords, but you can be sure its about money,as a by to this subject service from google has gone down hill as its taken 5 months to correct info about us & our website after moving…………

Renata says:

1. (not provided) 8.802 17%
2. 999 2,0%

:(

Bob Lusk says:

Record Tree is a small site. (not provided) is the number one organic key word driving 23% of visits. I suppose those visits are distributed proportionately among all other key words, but still, I would like to know what my number one key word is. I’d also like to know how the key words that make up the 23% (not provided) are distributed. Like the other commenters, I’m sure there is a Google goal behind this and it isn’t user privacy.

Cheryl says:

This (not provided) really irks me. I found an interesting article at:

http://webanalysis.blogspot.com/2012/03/finding-not-provided-keywords-in-google.html#axzz1wPtPUA82

According to the following article, “…Google still tracks all the keywords search by logged in users but just does not pass it in the referrer to the site that the user clicks through to. These keywords are available in the Google Webmaster Tools. To see the report you will have to register your sites in Google Webmaster Tool. Google Webmaster tools will allows you to see all the keywords that were searched, the number of clicks your site got, the average position of your site for those keywords and the landing pages.”

louie says:

I think its gonna get worst with Windows 8 this is because youre always logged in into Gmail as it happens in Android Tablet, Iphone, etc… It is an app that is gonna change the “not provided” issue for worst….

greyleigh says:

(not provided) is our #1 result every day and is so frustrating!! We are a small business and only use the organic search, no paid, so this really would be helpful for us. On average, (not provided) is 20% of our keyword results!! I do use the other words that come up, but losing 20% of our results daily is a big deal for us.

Peter says:

I searched for a while before I found your answer. I think Google may be trying to tip analytics to people who pay. Those who don’t, don’t get good results on their keyword. So in a way, they may be trying to get you to at least spend some money to validate which keywords are good for you. “Don’t be evil” was left behind a long time ago…