Google Analytics: What is (not provided)?


In our previous post, we discussed the basic terminology used in Google Analytics. Now, we're going to look at a Google eccentricity that many our clients have been puzzled by: the dreaded (not provided) field.

In 2011, Google made the first in a series of changes to the way that it passed keyword information to websites. In short, the change meant that search terms would not be provided when a user performed a secure Google search and would, instead, be indicated in Google Analytics by the keyword (not provided). Shortly after the change went live, one of the Internet's most popular browsers, Firefox, announced that it would be implementing Google's secure search features by default. To further compound the issue, Google then took additional measures to ensure that all of their users' organic search traffic was secure, meaning that any search from those users that resulted in them clicking on a non-paid, relevant search result was also lumped into the (not provided) keyword.

Without a doubt, if you've been keeping track of how visitors arrive at your site, you've witnessed the steady growth of (not provided) over the years. At present, it's estimated that upwards of 60% of all search visits are blocked. Of course, this begs the question, "How does this new search landscape affect my site's SEO strategy?"

Well, if you rely heavily on pay-per-click advertising or Google Adwords, you'll be happy to hear that this change will not affect those initiatives in any way. As we mentioned above, the most sweeping portion of the changes targets organic searches, leaving non-organic searches - paid advertisements - unaffected.

If, on the other hand, you rely on organic searches and you're craving the loss of meaningful keyword data in your Google Analytics dashboard, there is a way to access some of it without investing headlong in Google Adwords:

  1. In your Google Analytics dashboard, click on Acquisition
  2. Select the Search Engine Optimization option
  3. Navigate to the Queries page

On the Queries page, you'll be able to investigate some of the keywords that visitors have used to reach your site. Google Analytics will also provide you with an estimated number of impressions, clicks and click-through rates for each of those keywords. While it doesn't provide you with in-depth analysis - such as bounce rates, percentage of new sessions or pages per session - you can still gain an understanding of what keywords are effective on your site and, if needed, you can adjust your SEO plan accordingly.

Of course, at Blue Fire Media, we're here to lend an ear if you have any concerns regarding your site's SEO strategy. While it can be a confusing, often intimidating subject, we understand that search engine optimization is a critical component in the success of any website. If you're concerned about your site's SEO performance and search rankings, feel free to reach out to one of our experienced professionals.

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