Google Analytics Keyword Not Provided

October 20, 2011
By Christina Keffer

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!