One measure of the effectiveness of your website as a lead generation engine is to have an understanding of the the keywords searchers used in Google to discover your website
But if you are reading this blog, you will have you noticed in your Google Analytics reporting that the vast majority of your search traffic appears to be using the keyphrase keyword reporting as (not provided) or (keyword not set.)
Understanding the keywords visitors used helps us to understand which keywords are driving the most traffic, or the keywords generating the most leads or sales, or indeed if we are driving traffic for keyword searches that are irrelevant to our business.
The fact that Google does not make this keyword data available in your Google Analytics is deeply frustrating. And of course the idea that Google is not revealing this data in the interest of protecting personal privacy somehow just doesn’t ring true
Nevertheless, this is the way it is, so let’s just get on with solving the problem.
Let’s start with the Acquisition | All Traffic | Source Medium | Keyword report. 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 more than 97% of all our search traffic. I suspect it may be the same for your business, too.
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. It is all being done in interest of protecting the privacy of the searcher.
You will also see keyword (not set) and this has a similar impact on your ability to understand your key phrases. “Not set” is best considered to be a catch-all bucket for traffic Google just can’t attribute.
Back in 2010, Google announced that it would no longer provide the keyword data as a result personalising our search experiences based on our behaviour, and this change has been implemented in the interest of protecting the privacy of the searcher.
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.
You can drill down from Acquisition | Channels | Organic report and choose to look at the Landing Pages.
Taking a look at our data for our not provided data, the filenames are a pretty good clue as to what the searcher wants.
For example our top 3 blog post filenames reveal they wanted to know more about Desktop vs Mobile metrics in Google Analytics, how to run Google Analytics reports covering hour of day and day of the week and how to calculate the ideal maximum cost per click for AdWords campaigns.
But where it gets a bit more complicated is when it would make a massive difference to the analysis if were were able to get more detailed information.
In the Organic Page landing report below, I am able to see the traffic coming to our specific service pages. But whilst I am able to fairly safely assume the nature of the search based on the landing page URL, I can’t do any granular analysis to know the longer tail search concept, for example if it was specifically SEO Agency, or PPC Nottingham, or Social Media Consultancy
The Keyword (Not Provided) Secret Sauce: Google Search Console
Landing Page data is great, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the actual keywords being used in organic search?
Well, you can see this data, and all you need to do is link up your Google Analytics Account to your Google Search Console data. We’ve written a guide detailing the steps you need to take.
If you associate a Google Analytics property with a site in your Search Console account, you’ll be able to see Search Console data in your Google Analytics reports. You’ll also be able to access Google Analytics reports directly from the Links to your site, and Sitelinks pages in Search Console. Google has written a guide that you can read here.
Voila, you have a whole universe of new data to take a look at.
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 the vast majority 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 initially said that only a small proportion of data will be keyword (not provided). We are seeing 97% (not provided) and I would be interested to know what percentage you’re getting. The amount of not provided data will vary from industry to industry. 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?
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