Google Analytics – Addressing the [Not Provided] Issue
Since October 2011, Google has been encrypting search activity, except those from Google Ads. This means that all keyword referrer data, for close to 100% of searches, is now presented in Google Analytics as “(not provided)”. In other words you cannot access organic keyword data anymore.
Encrypting search activity has meant that webmasters can no longer use branded and unbranded keyword data to assess:
- traffic per keyword,
- growth across keyword verticals,
- converting keywords,
- bounce rates from keywords,
- page views from keywords,
So what’s the solution?
Well there actually is no solution – no-one can make Google give us back all the keyword data they are withholding. And SEO was never always about ranking for branded and unbranded keywords – it was much more than that.
So given that Google’s Not Provided is here to stay – here are 4 actions you can take right now, to help your SEO campaign.
- Previous efforts to rank for specific keywords or phrases are no longer applicable. Instead focus on the amount of organic traffic to particular pages. If the amount of traffic you are receiving on a page is high then it really doesn’t matter what keyword or phrase is pulling them in. And if your traffic is high, but your conversions are low – then the content is not compelling enough or you don’t have the right content that attracts the right visitors.
- You still get keyword analytics from Google’s AdWords. So that is one way to receive at least some of the hidden information, but not for organic searches. One way to get some organic keyword data back is via Dan Barker’s filter that can be applied to Google’s Analytics but this method works well only when you’ve got good page URLs on your site.
- Use Google’s Webmaster Tools as it provides information on search queries that have returned URLs from your site, traffic to your site and ranking of your keywords across time. These can help you interpret how your site is being found and which pages are popular with visitors.
- Use keyword research tools such as SEMRush – they track a huge amount of data across all search engines. You can check for the keywords and phrases that both your own website and your competitors are ranking highly for. You have to pay a monthly fee – but it might be worth it. And this can also help suggest new content ideas if your traffic is up but your conversions are down (see point 1).
So what this all means is that unless you have a paid AdWords campaign, Google no longer allows you to see which keywords are bringing in the most visitors to your site. And even with AdWords you only see this information for the paid ads, not organic searches.
There are some ways to get around this problem and to glean some idea of how well your keywords are ranking – but overall, focussing on content and optimising your conversion rates are still the keys to good SEO.
Do you have any other tools you use to obtain keyword data? If so, please let us know so we can share this with others. If you need help trying to get some of this data back, get in touch and let us know.
Co-founder of Cornerstone and web junkie, Michael knows just how to diagnose your online problems and remedy the issue. An online enthusiast who believes in technology as an enabler of growth, Michael worries about all the details so you don't have to.