What is the ‘Not Provided’ Organic Keywords Problem (and what can You do about it)?

By Sue Brady

Keys

It’s been six months since Google made the change that shook up the SEO market. If you are still perplexed about what to do about it, read on.

Keyword analysis is extremely important for optimizing both paid for and organic keyword traffic. Many pay per click buyers use Google Analytics (GA) to analyze their results. GA is fairly robust and can satisfy the needs of most buyers. But what about your organic keywords? It’s equally important to know which ones are driving the most traffic to your site.

Not Provided. This term refers to keywords where Google is no longer sharing information on their origin. This is not new news. Back in 2011, Google made a change that keywords from anyone searching from a secure site (denoted by an ‘s’ after the http in your URL bar) would show up in reporting as Not Provided. Then in October of 2013, they made the change universal for all Google organic search, hiding the keyword information that used to be so useful. Information on organic keywords is still available in Bing/Yahoo search. But, because Google search has 67% of the search market, you are now missing a large amount of information.

When Google first started down this path, Matt Cutts, the Head of the Spam Team at Google, guessed that Non Provided visits would remain in the single-digit percents. He was wrong. According to a BrightEdge survey from Q1, 2013, 56% of search traffic in the tech industry was already coming from Google secure search, and therefore showing up as Non Provided in GA. And now it’s a 100%, since all Google searches are secure.

There have been a number of very useful articles written about getting around this pesky problem:

1. Kissmetrics describes 8 methods for gaining insight into your customer search data in these two articles: Unlock keywords and keyword not provided.

2. Search Engine Watch also has some useful advice, especially for the small business and in general.

3. Webbiquity compiled advice from 6 experts on dealing with the Non Provided issue.

Please share other ways you get around this issue. I’ll compile and publish them here at a later date.

UPDATE: I came across this article just as I was getting ready to publish this post. Perhaps Google is reconsidering?

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2 thoughts on “What is the ‘Not Provided’ Organic Keywords Problem (and what can You do about it)?

  1. Thanks for the article Sue. I’ve been doing some work on my father’s website, a typical SMB site. 86% of the traffic has no keyword data associated with it. Result? We’ve cut back on spending. I absolutely won’t guess on what’s working. If we had visibility, I suspect spending would have actually gone UP. Perhaps when Google rethinks, we’ll come back to the table with some more dollars. I suspect we’re not alone.

    1. Mark, I think your experience is not unique and continue to wonder why Google is going down this path. They also recently changed the rules around non-provided and PAID search. I’m not sure I fully understand the implications yet, but can’t imagine Google would do anything to hurt their search business. It seems that the way you’ll get your data has changed, but that the data is still there. Here’s one article on that change: http://searchengineland.com/official-google-brings-provided-ads-will-withhold-search-query-data-paid-clicks-188750. Have you noticed the change on the paid side?

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