(Not Provided) Keyword Data Causes Migraines

not provided keyword data

Before I start, I should probably just confirm that the statement made in the title of this blog post has absolutely no factual or medical backing whatsoever. Just want to clarify that in case the ASA pop by.

It’s giving me a headache, though, that’s for sure. Since the whole default encrypted search for signed in Google users rolled out internationally, we’ve seen the proportion of referring organic keywords listed as (not provided) shoot through the roof.

A Little Bit of (Not Provided) Background

I won’t run through the whole sordid story again. Instead, allow me to refer you to a few resources if you’re not already familiar with it:

The Current State of Play

Now, when this was first announced, Matt Cutts told webmaster that signed in searches account for ‘fewer than 10% of searches’. Therefore, surely, (not provided) should account for fewer than 10% of referring organic keywords.

We can already see on the sites we work with, taking data from 1st – 19th March 2012, that some sites (retail in particular) are already experience more than 10%. We’ll assess the figures in full at the March, of course.

Is it Really Such a Problem?

Yes. It certainly is. Let me give you an example.

A new campaign just starts hitting a point at which it’s generating leads. When these early leads start trickling in, the data about the keywords driving those conversions is like gold dust.

Except of course, when all your conversions come from keyword (not provided), in which case that’s about as useful as a holey umbrella.

Thank you, Google.

“It’s All in the Name of Privacy”

Forgive me if I come across somewhat cynical, but Google’s stating that it’s all in the name of privacy it utter rubbish for two reasons:

  • This doesn’t apply if the click is on a PPC ad. So privacy, apparently, is only an issue if you’re clicking on natural search listings. Let’s have some consistency, Google.
  • Privacy is only an issue if you’re signed in when searching? Come off it!

Ways Around It

There’s no way to get all that data back. Not even begging, pleading, petitioning or praying.

However, you can steal some of the data back one of the following 2 ways:

  • Link up Webmaster Tools with Analytics. That will give you data about the top 1000 referring keywords to your site. Of course, if you have visits from 30,000+ keywords, this is a drop in the ocean. You’ll also be unable to get the conversion data from those so again, visibility over the true value of those keywords to your SEO campaign is limited.
  • This little hack from Econsultancy enables you to take a bit of the data back.

In reality though, this is just tough luck for SEOs. It’s just something we have to work around. Make the most of any PPC data you may have in regard to conversions and make sure you fully analyse assisted conversions for any more information you can ascertain from the data you do have.


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