Google Analytics: Keyword Not Provided

Have you started to see in your Google Analytics: “Keyword Not Provided” and wondered what it’s all about? In case you missed it, a couple of weeks ago Google’s Search team announced that it was making a change in how the data from it’s search results was shared. In short, they stated:

“As search becomes an increasingly customized experience, we recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver. As a result, we’re enhancing our default search experience for signed-in users….What does this mean for sites that receive clicks from Google search results? When you search from https://www.google.com, websites you visit from our organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won’t receive information about each individual query.”

Now to put this in plain English, basically this is how it will work: If someone is signed into Gmail, or any other Google Service, and they do a search and land on your site, you will not know what keyword they searched. There will be execetpitons to this, as the Google Analytics team was quick to point out in their own announcement :

“To help you better identify the signed in user organic search visits, we created the token “(not provided)” within Organic Search Traffic Keyword reporting. You will continue to see referrals without any change; only the queries for signed in user visits will be affected. Note that “cpc” paid search data is not affected.”

In other words, users who click on Adwords, are not safe from having their keyword data shared. I’m not going to point out the contradictions on this, as many have done so already. Avinash (Google Analytics Evangelist) also has some interesting comments on this change. Another thing to note, is this is not something that only affects Google Analytics, but all analytics vendors. For this reason, Webtrends and Omniture, for example, have release statements on how they will deal with this change. As the change gets rolled out worldwide, you will start to see an increasing number of “Keyword Not Provided”, so you will need to become more creative. I would straongly recommend if you have not already to get a Google Webmaster Account, as Google notes: You “can also receive an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to their site for each of the past 30 days through Google Webmaster Tools (GWT). This information helps webmasters keep more accurate statistics about their user traffic”. I should add a note of caution, Matt Cutts, Search Quality Engineer from Google who adds this caveat: ” Google’s webmaster tools only provide a sampling of the data… the data in our webmaster console is [not] equivalent to the data that websites can currently find in their server logs, because that’s not the case”.  To me, the tool that will become even more powerful is Google Insights for Search ,because going forward, you will have to rely on more universal (Google search) data than on personal (site specific) data. The effect of this change will affect each region, website or vertical differently.  In my view, although it may take more time,  if you focus on content data, trends with keywords (as opposed to exact data) and other tools available, the impact will be somewhat lessened. The reality is, there is no point in crying over split milk, it’s done. Now it’s time to come up with creative solutions to keep moving forward.

 Google Analytics: Keyword Not Provided

Adrian Speyer

About The Author: Adrian has over 12 years experience in Digital Marketing and Analytics. He currently works as a Marketing Manager at Vanilla Forums, a modern forum software platform that allows clients to connect and engage their communities and customers. He lives and works in Montreal.

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  • Nov 10th, 2011 at 01:16 | #1

    I just do not understand why Google would do this. It is a disservice to to any good company that wants to effectively use their website. Thanks for your summary of this change. I am trying to determine what this really means for all of my clients and I think your write up did it.

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