Google Analytics was once a fantastic tool that could be used by website owners to collect valuable information about their site’s performance in organic search (read our recent post on organic and paid searches for more information). Though this information is still accessible, it now means very little to website owners as a high percentage of web traffic is displayed as ‘(not provided)’. This percentage is slowly rising, and notprovidedcount.com (a site which uses Analytics data from 60 websites to track the rise of the ‘(not provided)’ keyword) predicts it will hit 100% by 2018.
Look familiar? 85% of the keywords used to access this website are ‘not provided’ by Google Analytics.
What does this mean?
Back in 2011, Google announced that any keywords searched on a ‘secure’ webpage where the result was clicked would no longer be passed on to the destination website. The same would be true for any searches made by users who had been logged in to their Google account (or had recently logged out) at the time of the search.
Google's ‘official’ reason for encrypting search phrases was to protect the privacy of Google users; Google suggested that those searching using a secure connection would not want their search terms to be passed on to the destination site...
That is unless the search was paid for using Google AdWords. Let’s say you own a dog grooming company and want your business to appear within the first few listings any time a user searches for ‘dog grooming services’. So, you launch an AdWords campaign to have your advert displayed at the top of Google search and pay each time the ad is clicked on (this is known as ‘pay per click’ advertising). Now you want to see how successful your ad has been by marrying up the number of times the search phrase ‘dog grooming services’ has brought customers to your site, and the number of sales that were made throughout the duration of the campaign. Well you can’t, because the keyword data will disappear, right
Wrong. Apparently Google has no qualms in overlooking ‘privacy concerns’ when it comes to paid ads; websites paying for Google Adwords continue to receive the full keyword data that they always have done...
There have been numerous claims about hidden agendas behind the implementation of ‘(not provided)’; one of them being that Google is withholding search terms so they can sell to those willing to pay £100k+/year for a Google Analytics Premium account, though this has been confirmed false. Generally, the suspicion is that ‘(not provided)’ was introduced to push more website owners to paying for AdWords. After all, this is how Google makes its money.
So what can be done? Kissmetrics has created a great guide on stealing some of your ‘(not provided)’ data back. You can check it out here
If you still have unanswered questions, please leave them in the comments section below and we'll see what we can do to answer them!