Google Analytics ‘(not provided)’ Keyword Data

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

On September 23rd, Google flipped a switch that made all searches clicked on in its Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s) “secure”. What does this mean for someone that runs a website?

Well, for those website owners and managers who like to see what search term a visitor used to find their site, they will no longer be able to for any clicks from Google’s organic search results.

In the past, search engine optimisation has relied heavily on this data in Google Analytics to determine keywords that people used to arrive at a website and which of these words needed to be optimised further. All you see now in replacement is ‘(not provided)’ data. This means that you will now have to rely on past data and the keywords that were important to you and measure your success through ranking monitors.

Why Have They Done This?

The simple answer is no one really knows. There is a lot of speculation and conspiracy theorising but the most believed explanation is for privacy and security reasons. Although oddly they have only made this change on natural search results and not for their paid ad links, so it indicates security isn’t the only reason.

No doubt Google also have an angle to make more money out of this change. It has been happening for a while and the amount of ‘(not provided)’ data in Google Analytics has been steadily increasing over the last year to get people prepared for losing the data altogether.

What Can I Use Instead?

1. Look at other search engines. You will still be able to see the search terms from Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. If you don’t already have a Bing Webmaster Tools account, now is the time to get one, as you also see your keyword data in there. The main issue here is that most sites get the vast majority of their traffic from Google, so Bing and Yahoo are poor cousins with less data.

2. Use Google Webmaster Tools. You should be using this free tool anyway, but you can see what search queries people are making and the average position of your website along with the number of clicks you receive for each query. The data is limited to the last 90 days, but you always download and store it.

In order to see Webmaster Tools data in Google Analytics you need to link your accounts together (go to admin>>choose your property>>property settings and add Webmaster tool account). It is worth noting that Webmaster Tools data isn’t entirely 100% accurate and doesn’t take into account all of the search queries, but it is useful for identifying trends.

3. Google AdWords. Buy some ads and use the AdWords system to help further evaluate keyword data. In the main it will help you identify those keywords that are converting the most and those that people aren’t seeing as relevant to your content, as they are performing poorly. Whilst only limited to those that click on the paid search results, it does provide some insight.

In Conclusion

This superb Google Analytics keyword search data may now be lost forever or there could also be further developments yet to materialise. Rumours are that there may be a paid version of Google Analytics on the horizon that would include the data again.

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Katie is a lover of words and art, born and raised in Christchurch. With a BA in English and Japanese, she’s happiest tapping away at her keyboard writing copy or articles, or else working on the latest illustration. To balance the creative side, Katie is also very motivated and a bit of a perfectionist, which helps with her SEO duties. Although her hobbies could probably be described as art, art and more art, she also enjoys long walks, good friends and travel.

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