"Not Provided" Keywords In Google Analytics

Brendan Egan

"Not Provided" Keywords In Google Analytics

“Not Provided” keywords in Google Analytics are causing  a BIG headache for internet marketing firms and business owners alike.  Through this article we’ll explain why these keywords are showing up in your Google Analytics reports as “not provided” and explain exactly what “not provided” means.

What Is It And Why?

In October, 2011, Google announced that they would be switching Google to SSL for anyone signed into a Google account.  In everyday terms, that means that anyone logged into a Google account and searching using Google’s search engine will be redirected to a secure, encrypted version of the search engine.  With this change, Google analytics no longer reports how anyone signed into a Google account found your website (hence the “Not Provided” keywords in Google Analytics).
At the time of the change, Google estimated that “Less than 10% of Google searches are done by those signed into a Google account” which made most internet marketing firms, including Simple SEO Group, brush off the change as it would have a minor impact on the accuracy of our reports.  After all, we would have data still for about 90% of searchers which is still a good amount of information.
The exact reason behind this change isn’t extremely clear, however it is apparently simply a privacy change for Google users.  Google can then say that when signed into an account, your browsing history and data is “more private” although we really don’t buy that argument.  After all, in Google Analytics, it tells us what keyword a person used to find us, it’s not telling us sensitive information like that searcher’s name, email, or other information.

What’s The Impact Going Forward?

The reason we’re writing this article is because of all the inquiries we’ve received from our clients about the “not provided” keywords in their Google Analytics reports.  While Google estimated that only 10% of searchers are logged in, that simply isn’t the case for nearly all of our SEO clients.  Nearly everyone has a Google account–whether for Gmail, Youtube, Analytics, or another Google feature–and the reality is most of us leave our accounts signed in even when we aren’t using Google tools.
Many of our clients (including our own website) have seen the number of “Not proivded” keywords in our Analytics report spike above 10%.  If I had to estimate a rough average, I would say most clients see about 25-35% of their keywords as “Not Provided”, which is a HUGE chunk of data that we are now missing.  Without this data, we can’t properly understand which keywords are effective in our marketing campaigns, which visitors are leading to conversions, and where to allocate more marketing funds.  It’s truly a huge blow to the online marketing industry.

What Can I Do About It?

Unfortunately nothing.  Unless Google changes their policy, we’re stuck with missing out on a large chunk of our keywords reports.  Some alternatives are switching to their party reporting tools, however some of these third party tools are unable to deliver the keyword reports as well.  It’s a tough situation for business owners and internet marketers alike as we’re stuck “guessing” where all this traffic came from and are no longer able to scientifically approach our keyword review process.