New Keyword In Google Analytics: (Not Provided)?

You may have noticed a change in how Google Analytics is recording and reporting your traffic from Google in the last month; there’s a new keyword in town, and it’s called (not provided). This “keyword” represents any and all keywords used by website readers that found your website through a Google search query while logged into their Google Account.

Keyword Not Provided In Google Analytics

Google announced this change in their blog on 10/18/2011, stating that “As search becomes an increasingly customized experience, we recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver.” As internet marketers and website owners, this change has presented us with a new challenge in our quest to determine the health and success of our website in the eyes of the Google.

Do not despair, if you use Google Analytics to regularly monitor the popular keywords that drive traffic to your website, you have another option within Google’s suite of products to help you understand the keywords that are delivering visitors. In Google Webmaster Tools you can find the top 1,000 search queries that have delivered traffic to your website in the last 30 days.

Do you have questions about Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, or how you can use these tools to analyze your website readership? Join us on Twitter or Facebook, or leave a comment here on our blog.

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Comments

  1. Andrew says

    Ah it’s been more than 2 years since you wrote this. I’m late to the party. Melissa have you checked out the website notprovidedcount? It basically charts the percentage of traffic keywords that are not provided currently at 81.79%. So we made http://keyseo.io – a program that incorporates the webmaster tool and search engine queries – to make better guesses of your not provided keywords.

    We’d love to have you take a look at it and tell us what you think :)

  2. Brandon says

    Google may not be reporting the keywords used by their logged in users, but the keyword data is still being provided in the referring url. I thought that maybe they were encrypting the referring url data, but they are not. Depending on your coding chops, you can log the “HTTP_REFERER” in a database to see these individual search terms that are being masked in Analytics and grouped in Webmaster tools.

    If you are using WordPress, it’s even easier. Just install any plugin that logs referring keywords. All referring keyword data will be logged whether the Google user was logged in or not.

    Yes, it would be much easier if Google would provide it, but the data is still available outside Google Analytics and Webmaster tools, if you must have it.

  3. Galenn Sonntag says

    Thanks for the clarification. It’s a pain to have to switch between one Google Reporting tool and another to get the website stats I want. I agree with others that providing the data, raw data on search terms, has no way of revealing the identity of the searcher. Come on Google! Put it back in my Google Analytics reports.

  4. sociablweb says

    I am getting 40% as ‘not provided’ keywords in my “keyword conversions” custom reporting section. Is there any other free analytic software where i can track proper keyword conversions.

  5. faospark says

    I believe its step on the right direction on Google’s behalf, its not google’s problem if it affects a particular company’s clientele. the best solution for that is to go premium right?

    • HikingMike says

      You’re kidding. So people that pay for premium Analytics can still see this data? And they claim it was done for privacy reasons?

      It’s not really a privacy policy if people that pay still get to see this information. In that case they just made it a premium feature and this wasn’t done for extra privacy at all. If it was really a privacy issue, they would have either made it the same in every case or given the average Joe USER the choice to decided what to disclose. As it is now, the Analytics users have the choice to pay and see it or not.

      • Melissa Smith says

        Good point. To be completely honest with you, I haven’t verified that this data is available in premium – again with the problem of the $150k annual price tag.

  6. FDNG says

    Well, I suppose it’s part of the Google’s privacy policy. However, I do not really understand what would be the difference wether they let the keywords visible. I mean, how would I have gotten the information about the user, based only on the fact that somebody logged in with a google account has searched for this keyword and ended up on my website.
    Rather strang.

  7. Matt Smith, modMACRO says

    All of our client’s sites have been affected. And it’s a bummer when, like today, we launch a new site, and 100% of the organic traffic has the “(not provided)” keyword. Really makes it hard to tell what’s working on a new site when you can’t see anything. Looks like it’s time to start using our own keywords tracking again.

    • Melissa Smith says

      Hi Matt,
      Do you have proprietary software you use for tracking, or some other preferred statistics program?

  8. Mateusz says

    It is true In Google Webmasters Tool no traffic from keywords show as (not provided). Is simply doesn’t show at all. Just comapre results from both sources. So the advise is not very helpful after all.

    • Melissa Smith says

      You are correct – it doesn’t show the keyword (not provided) in Google Webmaster Tools. What it is showing you is the keywords that are generating impressions, giving you some insight into how people are potentially finding your site. It’s not a replacement for the way that Google Analytics used to work – it’s just an interesting new tool for website owners to use to understand how Google sees their website.

  9. Amit Patekar says

    Thank you very much for the description of “not provided” keywords, for long time i use to think that this is direct traffic and was surprised to see such great numbers. But i know now that its normal keywords with people login. This is going to change my thinking about keyword i am ranking at. Also good point to look at google webmaster.

    Thanks again
    Regards
    Amit Patekar

  10. onedevteam says

    I noticed this that in last few days, (not provided) keyword was increased up to 200% on my sites. But i also have noticed increased organic traffic from google for 30-40%, for no obvious reason in same time period. Don’t know if this is connected…

  11. WordPress SEO says

    We’re seeing more and more people coming in with the keyword “Encrypted”. It’s effecting the keyword monitoring that we do. I also can see this in the “Not Provided” in GA. This is not good and degrades the analytics. So, this is not good for SEO.

    • Melissa Smith says

      I haven’t seen a keyword “Encrypted” yet – interesting. Thanks for the heads up on that one. You’re right about this being problematic for anyone that uses Google Analytics to better understand how their SEO is affecting their traffic; have you been able to make use of the new Search Engine Optimization section of the new GA to help balance this change?

  12. Ravi says

    The keywords that i get from google analytics that may have high visits but the thing is if i search for those keywords that GA shows has brought high traffic to my website actually doesn`t exists in the google`s top 50 ranks. So hows this possible..??

    • Melissa Smith says

      Google search results are varied by many factors, including geography, user search habits and patterns, and the rising social search results. It is a lot harder now to predict what any user might get as search results.

  13. Jimmy G says

    I can see the reasoning for it, for example; I used to see marketers/competitors doing search queries on our site from time to time, like site:yoursite.com “my keyword” Now thats much less common in our keywords.
    I guess in some scenarios you could link this kind of research with actual companies or individuals because of some action they may have taken based on the content or structure of someone elses site.
    All this is a very grey area though.

    I am as pissed as everyone else that Google sees fit to keep 20% of our referring keywords from us in Alalytics, because the vast majority are just ordinary users and not marketers etc.

    It seems to me that Google just keeps defending against ways it can be used by marketers and seo’s to gain more insight into its serps.

    Jimmy

  14. Terence says

    Hi, anyone can figure out how Google will monetize on this move? Launching a paid premium Analytics service which can explore the uncharted “not provided” zone?

  15. Karen Nierlich says

    Melissa…Just wanted to say your write well and I’ve posted this to my company FB page. Your topics are terrific and relevant. Probably post it to Twitter later today.

    Cheers, Karen

  16. Karen Nierlich says

    Hi All,

    As a web designer, I want to say I concur on several of the points above.

    1. Privacy doesn’t seem like a logical reason for the change.

    2. It is affecting all our client data…

    3. I appreciate we can get the data anyway so it’s not a big deal.

    4. It does look to me like Google is thinking about what they give away for free and what you get when you pay. I use both the Google Adwords External Keyword tool and the Adwords Keyword Internal Tool. Sometime in the last year the results became more limited on the first. You now have to log in to Google Adwords to get more results. Could be wrong. It’s just a hunch.

    Best, Karen

    • Melissa Smith says

      In response to 2.) One interesting thing that I have noticed is that with some clients we have experienced a surge in the keyword (not set) rather than (not provided). Has that happened with any of your clients?

  17. Brandt Dainow says

    Google don’t block the keyword term if someone clicks AdWords, only if they click a native listing. Because they aggregate all data at the point of gathering it, this change means they have much less data to process in Google Analytics. From my own experience designing web analytics software, I’d guess they could save 15% – 25% (conservatively) in data processing costs for Google Analytics. When I combine this with the new GA interface, which ties everything to Adwords, it makes me suspect Google just see GA as an adword tool, and non-adword GA users as just lost money. If that is the case, we’ll see more changes limiting it to adword reporting.

  18. Glen says

    THIS is just another reason on the long list why GOOGLE SUCKS !!!! They are nothing more than leftist thugs who have made money so now do everything they can to keep us under their thumb. Mark my words… this will bite them in the ass some day sooner than anyone knows. When your support and/or lack of customer service SUCKS… it is just a matter of time before the entire ship sinks. It’s called competition. It will catch up with their sorry asses.

  19. Melissa Smith says

    All of our clients have been affectedby this change as well. In response to your point about AdWords, Google must be responsible for providing paying advertisers with the keyword that is being clicked on through the Sponsored Ads – because that’s what the advertiser is paying for.

    I think part of the reason behind this change is related to Google Plus, and the privacy of Google Plus users. With the launch and growing popularity of Google Plus, more users are logged into their Google Account more of the time than ever before. I’m not sure how this is going to shake out as Google Plus continues to grow and change – what do you think?

  20. Hawaii Web Design says

    I have to say this new action by Goolgle is frustrating to say the least. When they first announced it, they stated that “less than 5% of sites will be impacted” and now all of my clients sites number one “Search term” in analytics is “Not Provided.” However, if we use “PPC” or adwords, then they provide it. So basically it’s a force to spend money with Google. When did they lose sight of their original goal to be a non-greedy company? How many small businesses are they hurting during this tough economy?

  21. castleville bot says

    I was wondering about it for a while now, at first I though maybe it’s a chinese keyword, silly me. Now I understand. Google trying to level the battlefield for marketeers huh

  22. Junaid says

    There should be no privacy breach in providing the figures and keywords to webmasters, as it is never shown precisely that who searched what? Anyways Google is still recording the search history for users. This is one of the most illogical move Google ever made

    • Melissa Smith says

      I have to agree that I don’t follow their logic in calling this privacy related, since the keywords don’t lead back to any identifying information about the user.

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