Google Analytics ‘Not Provided’ Keywords: What Does It Mean And How Does It Affect Me?

If you are new to Google Analytics, there are a lot of things you need to understand about the metrics before you can analyze them to derive results. One of the many things you need to understand about Google Analytics is the term “not provided” (Figure 1)that appears when you try to analyze the keywords visitors searched for which led them to your site.

Organic Search Traffic   Google Analytics
Figure 1

Google’s Not Provided Annoucement

The change was made by Google in 2011, stating that when the users search for keywords using the safe search option and click on results, the keywords they type in won’t be passed on to the site they visit.

All searches made on secure Google pages will instead be grouped into the “not provided” section when the site owner views their Google Analytics reports. This was done to give people more privacy when they are browsing online. Since privacy and security are the basic reasons why people opt to use secure searches, this seems understandable. The only sites that will be able to see search results of these safe searches are those that are using Google AdWords due to the PPC data.

“Not Provided” Impact on SEO

To those who are new to the world of Analytics, this would seem like a minor change. However, it can and does have a significant effect on the SEO of a website. The fact is that a large number of Google searches today are done through safe networks and the results of these searches are unavailable to the websites. The impact of having only 50% of the data related to your keyword searches is not an ideal situation for any website. As an example the website above in Figure 1, 92% of all it’s keywords are “Not Provided”.

Summary

  • No Longer Able to See Which Keyword Generated the Most Traffic
  • Unable to Measure and Report accurately on Which SEO Terms Performed the best
  • Can no longer rely on Google Analytics to track keyword

For sites it means that when the customers come to their sites and ultimately place orders, they cannot determine what exactly they were looking for. This also makes it impossible for them to determine which keywords have a high conversion ratio when they come through Google referrals. This would make it difficult for them to optimize their website data according to these keywords so that they can get more visitors to visit their sites. Subsequently, lack of optimized data on their site will also increase the bounce rate significantly.

How to overcome Google’ “Not Provided”

The best way for businesses to counter this situation is using Google Webmaster Tools that provide you search data for encrypted queries as well. Using the Google Webmaster Tools is very simple. If you don’t already have an account at Webmaster, you can create one for your site. After your account is verified, it’ll take a few hours for Google to get the data regarding your website.

Once your information is there, you can go to the “Search Traffic” option from your dashboard (located on the Left hand navigation bar) to view the reports regarding the top keywords searched by visitors to come to your site.

Google Webmaster can also lead you to the pages where each of these keywords takes the audiences on your site. However, the data on Google Webmaster is only available for 90 days so you need to check it in a timely manner.

Note: Google Webmaster data is limited and isn’t exactly ‘comparable’ to Google Analytics Keyword results before “Not Provided” entered the scene.

Another way you can get access to his data is by signing up for Google AdWords. If none of that sounds too appealing, you can consider looking at keyword searches made on search engines other than Google to get an idea of the keywords that visitors mostly use to reach your website.

About the Author

Matthew Goulart

Matthew Goulart is the founder of Ignite Digital, a Canadian digital marketing agency. Through Ignite Digital, Goulart works with Fortune 500 companies and advertising agencies from around the world and has helped launch profitable and highly successful digital marketing initiatives for his clients.