If you regularly use Google Analytics to interpret your organic search traffic, you may have noticed a surprising change to the platform as of late – the words “not provided.”
If you haven’t seen it, “not provided” looks like this:
This is happening because Google has switched 100% of its search traffic to its secure (HTTPS) server. As a result, all of the keyword data for Google’s organic search traffic is cloaked beneath the “not provided” moniker.
This means that, while you are able to see search volume, you cannot know which keywords users searched to access which pages.
In other words, marketers now have a lot less data when it comes to analyzing how their target audience is finding them. This includes understanding which pages are “working,” organically, and which still need improvement.
What You Can Do
Luckily, there are a few workarounds that, although they may seem tedious at first, will help you and your overall SEO goals in the long run.
What “not provided” means, as you’ve probably guessed, is that marketers will be feeling around in the dark for a while as they adapt to this change. This will take some getting used to. But there will likely come a day when the steps recommend above will be so second-nature, old SEOs will sit around and say, “hey, remember when Google used to tell us what keywords were being used to access our sites?” Ah, the good old days…
If you’ve looked into your Organic Search Reports in your web analytics platform over the last few days; you may have noticed what is generating a lot of discussion in web analytics circles. Google has increased the use of secure search and extended it past the boundaries of “logged-in” users. Until last week all users that were logged into a Google account, searched through the FireFox search bar or the Chrome Omnibox were treated as secure and Google would subsequently withhold the search term to the site owners where the visitor landed.
What this means is the limited Google Organic Visitor data that we had before last week has become further obfuscated. Many site owners already had reported that more than 50% of their traffic was already labeled as (Not Provided) and Google’s recent change further muddies the picture.
While this is a painful blow to Web Analysts everywhere there are three (albeit imperfect) things you can do to gather some intelligence on your organic campaigns.
1. Use Google AdWords
Whatever the security motive was that drove Google to turn off the referring keyword information (legitimate reasons do exist); the information is still, puzzlingly supplied to AdWords advertisers for paid clicks.
2. Use Bing/Yahoo! Data
As of now Bing has not followed suit, and even though it’s a smaller sample, in this case some data is better than no data.
3. Use Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools will show you an approximation of the top terms for which your site is visible and the data can be easily integrated into Google Analytics.
Unfortunately there is no light at the end of the (Not Provided) tunnel; that said, there have been some interesting suggestions made to Google on how this could be overcome or at least, how some data might be shared without a privacy concern.
We will continue to monitor the situation and make further updates here in the future.