Navigating the Frustration of “Not Provided” Search Data in Google Analytics

If you’re using Google Analytics for website tracking, you’re certainly aware of the privacy policy changes that resulted in a huge selection of keyword data becoming unavailable. In October 2011 Google implemented a new privacy policy that resulted in “not provided” keywords displaying in the organic keyword list. Keyword search terms for visitors who perform searches while logged into a Google account have since displayed as not provided. This was Google’s attempt at protecting their user’s privacy; however, the changes have sent traffic analyzers for a loop. In addition to steadily increasing numbers in the “not provided” category, we have also noticed a decrease in organic traffic share in year over year comparisons. This decrease can be partially attributed to a glitch in Google Analytics which attributes visitors using iOS 6 (most Apple devices) as direct visitors even if they came through a referring site or search engine. Branded search phrases have also shown notable decreases in year over year comparisons, but the not provided terms have increased dramatically.

Frustrated with the volume of “not provided” keyword data you are seeing in Google Analytics for your site? We certainly were and we have taken action to look deeper into the source of the mystery keywords. Thanks to the helpful tips presented in a Search & Analytics article by Carrie Hill, we have implemented a custom filter that shows us where our not provided organic search visitors are landing on the site – in turn giving us tremendous insight into the keywords our not provided visitors are using. There are a variety of new filters and ideas on the web to help combat the not provided black hole and we encourage you to take action to grab a hold of the data available to you.


*Bonus Tip: Make sure you’re reviewing your data in Google Webmaster Tools. We like to look at Traffic>Search Queries and then select Top Pages. Click on the page you are focusing on and drill down to see top search phrases used for the selected time period. This information helps in gaining a broader picture of top keywords for a particular page.

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