Why is (Not Provided) my most popular keyword?
Posted: 24/08/2012 09:52:01 Tags: Google, Search Engine Optimisation, SEO
Recently, many clients have asked me, “why is (not provided) my most popular keyword?”
This is because Google now restrict the keyword data that is passed to Google Analytics from users that are searching whilst signed in to a Google account. These restricted keywords are collectively grouped as (not provided) in Google Analytics... but why would Google do this?
Back in October 2011, Google announced that they were adding additional security features to Google.com to make their search engine more secure. These new security measures include encrypting the data that is transferred from the search engine to things like Google Analytics and this is applied to all users who are logged into a Google product (for example a Google account, Gmail, Google+, Google Reader, Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools.) The encryption also includes searches made via https://www.google.com
Google say that the reason for this is to protect users’ privacy, leaving webmasters and online marketers feeling frustrated and demanding answers.
The reason that the SEO community (and myself included) are so upset is that Google claim that this is ‘to protect the privacy of its users’, yet the secure keyword data is still available to paid search advertisers. This suggests that Google are pushing people away from relying on organic search and more into paid search advertising.
This theory is also supported by the new change to Google Shopping (formerly known as Google Base, Google Merchant or Google Product Search) – changing from a free product search engine to a paid search model – further highlighting the fact that the most important thing to Google isn’t to ‘protect the privacy of its users’ (surely we haven’t all forgotten about the privacy issues caused by Google Street View?) – it’s to increase their own revenue through paid search advertising.
When did this affect the UK?
The first change was implemented in the US back in October, but from March 5th 2012, Google announced that this feature will be introduced across all localised search engines, affecting Google UK and the rest of Europe as well as in the US.
Google Engineer Matt Cutts explains “estimated even at full roll-out, this would still be in the single-digit percentages”
, however, US websites have seen their average figure to be nearer 11% and continuing to rise, so webmasters and online marketers in the UK should expect a further increase in traffic under the (not provided) keyword.
What can we do?
In short, there’s not much we can do. For many years, Google have dictated the way we search the web and it seems like they are intend to exert their monopoly even further.
However, the impact will vary depending on the industry you are in; for industries where their users are classed as not ‘internet-savvy’ (users without a Google account or access to any Google product) the impact should be far smaller when compared with technology-driven service providers (like ourselves), where a large number of users regularly use products like Google Analytics or webmaster tools and will be logged in to Google accounts for most of the day.
However, some logic can be applied in order to extract the missing information from Google Analytics.
- Understand the (not provided) performance profile - Use Google Analyitcs to create a performance profile for the (not provided) keyword by looking at metrics such as bounce rate, pages per visit, goal conversions and percentage of new visitors.
- Top Content Pages – You can sort the (not provided) keyword traffic by content pages to determine what keywords may be missing by the number of views per landing page.
- Brand Vs Non-Brand Profile – Once you have understood the performance profile of (not provided) keywords, does it match the same behaviour as that of brand or non-brand related searches? Does it match the profile or New or Returning visitors?
If you need more information about SEO or you would like some help with your Google Analytics, why not speak to one of our SEO consultants at Egghead for some expert advice.