Not Provided – Frankly, Google, I Don't Give A Damn!

Andrew Birkitt

Lead Technical Engineer
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Until recently “not provided” (the anonymous keyword label in Google Analytics) was only a certain percentage of any websites keyword visits. This issue originally came about in 2011 when Google made the searches by a user signed into their Google account anonymous. However Google have now announced that they are making all searches encrypted meaning that it is no longer possible to see what keywords are sending you visits at the click of a button in Google Analytics.
You can see this change if you type in you will notice your browser address bar is now automatically redirected to which is a secure connection.
This is clearly aligned with the fact that Google are changing the alignment of how their search engine is working with the latest version of their algorithm focusing on the meaning and conceptualization behind search terms.

Google Webmaster Tools

Keywords traffic has commonly been used as a gauge for how a website is doing in the search engines, however all is not lost and as ever SEO isn’t dead, it is just evolving. There are still ways in which we can judge the effectiveness of a search campaign in terms of traffic and keywords. This can be done by using Google Webmaster Tools > Search Traffic > Search Queries. The report shows approximations of the number of times your site was shown in the results for a specific query and the number of clicks your site received for this query. It also gives you an average position for the term in the results. There is a lag of 2-3 days with this data, but it is very useful in terms of search traffic as it shows all search queries are shown, not provided doesn’t exist here. Unfortunately you can’t filter this report by the same dimensions as Google Analytics and some of the data is rounded up but it still gives a good indication about how your site is performing in Google. It must also be noted that the number of keywords that the report shows is limited, so larger companies will find this a limiting factor.
For more on the

Google Analytics Still Has Many Helpful Hints

Another important tactic to help gauge your search campaign is to look at your top landing pages in Google Analytics. You can judge your search effectiveness by taking into account what the content on your landing page is and what terms it is optimized for. Add to this the data from Google’s Keyword Planner and you can get a good flavour of what terms are still driving the traffic to your site. This is not perfect by any means but we have been working with data that hasn’t been 100% accurate since 2011, when not provided was first introduced.

Google Trends

Another tool that can be useful when looking at search performance is Google Trends which can give you some useful information about search volume around specific terms and in some cases (depending on traffic volume) may be useful to see brand performance.

Thoughts on moving forward

The main thing to remember with any digital marketing campaign is the fact that you want your visits to go up but more importantly you want your conversions and revenue to go up. As ever it is no good ranking for a term if the content you are serving doesn’t provide the visitor with what they are looking for and they don’t convert. SEO will never die it will just evolve and it has and always will be about creating a high quality site that contains great content and an excellent user experience.
As head of webspam and Google figure Head Matt Cutts recently said: “Succeeding in SEO will be the same as it’s always been if you’re doing it right – give the users a great experience.”

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