The keywords searchers use in Google to discover your website is a key performance indicator for many of our businesses. But have you noticed that in addition to your business keywords, that you are getting more and more visitors with the keyword reporting as (not provided). Do you know what this means?
Taking a quick look at our data, you can see that (not provided) is the top “keyword” driving traffic to our site, and that it amounts to about 40% of all our search traffic. I suspect it may be the same for your business, too.
And the (not provided) is getting worse. Since January most businesses are seeing a steady upward trend in keyword not provided
What does Keyword (not provided) mean?
Quite simply, it means Google is choosing not to share the key word data with you. The searcher did use a key phrase, obviously, but Google is not providing you with the information.
This is a result of Google personalising our search experiences based on our behaviour, and this change has been implemented in the interest of protecting the privacy of the searcher.
Why can’t we see the keywords?
There are two ways to use the Google search engine. The first is to use Google securely which appears with the extra “s” in the URL, for example https://www.google.co.uk. And the second way to use it, and the way most of us assume, is the normal non-secure version.
When a user is logged into a Google service, like Gmail or using their Google account, the secure version of Google search is used, and in order to protect user privacy no search keyword data is tracked and the phase (not provided) is reported in Analytics.
Likewise, if you search using the Firefox browser it defaults to the secure version of Google to prevent eavesdropping on your search behaviour, and Chrome can be configured to default to secure browsing.
What can we learn from this (not provided) key word data?
If you can’t see the keywords, then you will need to find a new metric to help you to understand if Google is sending you high quality traffic.
Consider instead the landing pages the (not provided) keywords are driving traffic to. The content on the first page the visitor came to from Google, the landing page, is a good indicator of the searchers’ intention.
Taking a look at our data for our not provided data, the filenames are a pretty good clue as to what the searcher wants. They are worried about their LinkedIn password being hacked, interested in our free social media calendar, wanting to learn how to use Facebook for their business. In many respects, this content landing page data is just as valuable as the actual keywords used in Google.
What’s the big deal?
Clearly, if you are trying to get your website to rank well in Google, you are not able to measure the traffic results accurately any more, and you can be losing up to 40% or even more of your organic traffic reporting.
But there are even bigger issues to consider.
1. Google is continuing to provide complete keyword data for it’s AdWords advertisers. In other words, you pay your money, you get your data. Google is in the business of selling advertising and cannot afford to alienate their paying customers. The harsh reality is that Google doesn’t really care one way or the other about reporting the full data to the web site owners receiving traffic. So if you don’t advertise, you lose.
2. Google is not protecting the privacy of visitors who click on adverts. Google has introduced the (not provided) in the interest of protecting user privacy, but clearly some Google users are more equal than others. In this case, visitors foolish enough to click on Google ads are having their privacy violated.
3. Google says only a small proportion of data will be keyword (not provided). The amount of not provided data will vary from industry to industry, but we are regularly seeing 30-40% of visits can’t be racked back to the original keyword search. Google may not have any obligation to report this data, but given its monopoly on the search market think of the ramifications if it decided to withhold all search query data?
Do you want to get help understanding your Google Analytics?
The Hallam Analytics experts can help you to make the most of your Analytics data. Get in touch if you want us to provide guidance:
- determine the key performance indicators for your business
- identify how well your current marketing efforts are working
- plan for improvments on your website based on how your visitors behave
- set up management reporting for you to use in growing your business
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