Google (Not Provided) Data – The Bane of 2012 for SEOs?

2012 google not provided data

We blogged a while back on Google’s ridiculous infuriating stupid controversial decision to make encrypted search the default for signed in users and hold back referring keyword data from organic search. You can read that here.

A few months on and we have had some time to fully assess the situation. Reports on various blogs indicate that some websites are finding far more than Matt Cutts’ suggested “10%” of Google organic traffic affected.

Of course, Google keeps reiterating that it’s all about privacy (privacy mattering much less if a visitor arrives at your site from paid search, apparently) and it’s looking unlikely that the search giant is about to back down.

But is this really going to be as much of a difficulty in 2012 as many are expecting?

The Size of the Problem

Let’s assume that Matt Cutts is right and that, at present, no more than 10% of your website’s organic traffic from Google will be affected. Now let’s assess some hypothetical (but very realistic) figures for an example ecommerce website:

–       100,000 organic visits/month from Google

–       Average conversion rate from organic traffic of 2.5%

–       Average transaction value of £20.00

A website fitting this criteria would have organic revenue figures looking a bit like this:

google not provided data

So based on 10% of Google organic traffic falling foul of (not provided) a site that looks like this loses visibility over keywords that drive up to £5000 worth of revenue each month – of £60,000 over a year!

google not provided december 2011

However, we know that Google is actively pushing services such as Google Plus, Gmail and Apps. We also know that if you are signed in to any of these services (unless you manually sign out) going to Google’s search engine and searching will be a signed in search. So if Google plans such rapid growth of its services (particularly Google Plus) then surely this 10% is only going to grow.

Could the problem look more like this, as many are suggesting, by the end of 2012?

google not provided data december 2012

Perhaps that’s even conservative.

The point is, this is a growing issue.

Marketing Blind Spot

One of my favourite things about Google Analytics has always been the ability to see exactly which keywords are generating sales and enquiries. It’s through this type of Analysis that web businesses are able to identify ‘low hanging fruit’ in Internet Marketing terms and are able to assess how their customers are finding them. This is crucial in order to effectively tailor your SEO campaign on an on going basis.

Losing even 10% of that visibility is disappointing. But to lose 25 or 30% could really limit your ability to use your existing data set to identify new potential areas of opportunity.


The solutions are limited.

Google has now enabled you to link its Webmaster Tools service up to Analytics and this way you can find the top 1000 keywords referring traffic to your website.

But what you cannot see is what these users did on your site, whether they stuck around, made a purchase or just bounced right off. So the data is incredibly limited.

EConsultancy also published a little Google Analytics hack to allow you to get some data back, albeit again one that has its limitations.

Sigh. Sulk. Whinge.

This isn’t something that’s looking likely to change. As much as I stamp my foot about it and speculate about the motives, it seems this is simply a challenge SEOs will have to deal with in 2012.

We’ll have to make more use of the data we do have and perhaps even experiment more with PPC for research purposes to make more detailed Analysis of keywords.

Paying for clicks for keyword research and performance analysis purposes is nothing new, of course. But I’m sure Google will have no complaints if more SEOs turn to Adwords for keyword research. [Insert cynicism].

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Tecmark Author Stacey MacNaught

About the Author

Stacey MacNaught: Search Director

Stacey joined us in 2009 as a junior copywriter; now she’s a recognised figure on the global speaking circuit, having wowed audiences in the UK, Europe and US – including at MozCon 2014. She leads our search team and works with clients to deliver high-level campaign strategies.

Visit Stacey's Page
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