Since 2011 Google has been restricting they keyword data they provide to websites so "secure” searches within Google would show up in Google Analytics as (not provided). Since 2011 keyword "not provided” has increased, dramatically reducing the data webmasters and SEOs have in order to optimise websites.
As of this week, keyword (Not Provided) has reached an all time high with many websites (including this one) reporting 100% of organic keyword data as (not provided.)
Why is Google not reporting keyword referral data?
Officially, this was done in the interest of privacy with Google stating those searching using a secure connection do not want their search data passed on to website owners.
Many are speculating that the move to 100% of Keywords now (Not Provided) could be related to the recent NSA 'Prism' scandal or simply down to the fact Google is being evil and wanting website owners to use Google AdWords to obtain keyword data - effectively paying for it.
Yes, you read that correctly, Google AdWords still provides keyword referral data.
Privacy my arse!
100% of Keywords now (not provided) on dpom.co.uk
Problems Keyword (Not Provided) presents: problems we’ve never had before!
Finding new keyword opportunities: It's now not possible to find new keyword opportunities in Google Analytics, this now can only be achieved by using several other methods and interpreting the data they provide.
Observing SEO Improvements: It's now much more difficult to connect improvements to rankings against actual keyword traffic and conversions - in fact it cannot be done with 100% accuracy.
Website Performance: We can no longer understand the effect of specific keyword referral traffic on performance - in other words how your users interact with a website. For instance, we cannot see if a specific term has a high bounce rate / low time on site for example, and optimise the landing page to improve the experience to ensure more visitors stay longer and navigate deeper into the website.
In addition we won’t be able to understand accurately the value of keywords, i.e. connecting them with conversion data.
Working around the keyword (not provided) problem:
All is not lost! There are methods to work around keyword (not provided) but it's far from easy. Using several methods and tools it is possible to paint a picture of what terms are beneficial for your websites SEO.
Effective SEO moving forward is going to stem from utilising the many tools at our disposable in order to understand how users search and how they interact with our website.
Here's a list with examples of how you can work around the (not provided) issue and whilst it isn't exhaustive it does provide actionable data.
No longer providing keyword data - i.e. not possible to see what keywords generated traffic / conversions.
Still lots of data available and combined with the below methods can be used to "Work Around” keyword data (Not Provided.)
Specifically - Landing Pages - It is possible to see how many searches produced a given page on your website. Combined with ranking data for specific keywords it’s possible to obtain a broad understanding of which keywords result in a given page being found and how many visitors found it.
Won’t tell you how many visits from a given keyword, making it difficult to understand if a keyword is performing or not
By understanding which terms are ranked well (and what monthly search volume they can produce) it is possible to take an educated guess as to if a given term is producing visits.
Other Tools to discover Keyword Opportunities:
Ubersuggest: Find new keywords based around a starting keyword.
SEMRush: Develop a broad understanding of traffic to competitor websites and which keywords potentially drive traffic from organic search and AdWords that you can use to optimise your site.
Wordstream: Wordstream offer a number of free tools to discover new keywords using both their own data and Google AdWords keyword data.
Do not simply rely on ranking data (or any other single piece of data). The only way to drive your SEO is now going to hinge on using several / all of the above examples together to build a true picture. Not only does this make SEO harder, it makes it much easier to misinterpret data and push your SEO in the wrong direction.
This hasn't made it impossible to optimise around keyword referral data but it has made it more difficult and time consuming. It has also made it much more difficult to manage client expectations in the sense that providing accurate keyword data to demonstrate SEO progress is now not as easy or clear. This alone is going to make for some very confusing reports and conversations with clients.
For those that manage their SEO in house this latest blow from Google is going to make things very arduous and confusing for novices thus putting barriers in the way of small businesses understanding the impact of SEO on their websites. In time I expect to see a raft of new tools that can consolidate data from multiple sources to replace the keyword data we've lived by in the past.
There has never been a more crucial time to have a reputable, knowledgable and skilled agency manage your Online Marketing.
Brett Dixon is a Google Qualified Individual and is responsible for overseeing the DPOM PPC & SEO Teams.
Brett has worked in PPC Management & SEO for around 8 years for both small and large businesses. Brett is a Google Qualified Individual, Bing Accredited Professional and contributes to many industry websites and blogs.