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Google Analytics’s “not provided”

Previously known for its accessibility to track keywords and monitor site traffic data, Google Analytics’s “not provided” issues promise to increase.

The Cause: Privacy

In an effort to protect the privacy of their users, Google developed secure searches for Google Analytics.

Originally, Google informed its Analytics users of the change by suggesting that only a small percent of keywords would be affected by the “not provided” issue when looking at the overall outcomes and data for organic searches. However, there was a significant error in its estimation, as over 50% of keyword returns were resulting in “not provided” messages.

Still, Google Analytics allowed keyword researchers to perform their duties. Yet, as instances of “not provided” keywords have risen (and will continue to increase), much of the organic keywords data isn’t available for Google’s traffic.

The Effect: Keyword Access Denied

Google’s goal was to provide privacy and ultimately avoid government agencies intervening, both of which objectives are met by “not provided” keywords.

Now, Google operates as an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) so that all queries become encrypted routes through a redirect. This way, keywords cannot be traced back to searcher queries, which assists with Google’s privacy initiatives. In addition, Google filed an amended petition in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to protect its users’ privacy.

Unfortunately for SEOs, this increased concern for privacy caused a problem in tracking organic keywords and determining what keywords drove users to a particular website. However, other tools like Google AdWords still grants access to keywords.

In the future, Google Analytics hopes to launch a new “premium” version that will require a monthly fee to access keywords. In the meantime, there are detour options available for getting around “not provided.”

Finding Detours Around the “Not Provided” Roadblock

Below are five tips for navigating around and replacing “not provided” data.

1. Utilize Google AdWords

Since this tool requires you to pay for its service, use it to its fullest capabilities. You can

see keywords and track them, so why not appreciate the value of this knowledge?             This tool has its uses, and SEO companies can use this data to track and check organic keywords, but no referral data will come from paying for this access.

2. Monitor with Google Trends

Keeping an eye on real-time Google Analytics will help with SEO and seeing what

content is trending. By looking at this information you can make an informed prediction of where your traffic is coming from.

3. Make use of Google Webmaster Tools

Webmaster Tools still allows you to view keywords. You just have to go into “Search Traffic” and then “Search Queries.” Webmaster Tools also includes data from encrypted searches, making this a good alternative to Google Analytics for the time being.

Another option with Webmaster Tools is to establish filters to display alternate data instead of hunting for specific keywords. Creating a valuable and meaningful set of filters will help you understand the traffic coming to your site from mobile sources versus the Web, for example. From here, more data can be collected as you capture how viewers are getting to your website.

4. Explore Non-Google Keywords

Ultimately, you can still get a feel for what keywords are generating traffic for your site. You’ll just have to use keyword data from other search engines. This may be less accurate for predicting what Google keywords are driving traffic to your site, but it is a step in the right direction. Check out alternate options like Bing and see what keywords are bringing traffic to your site.

5. Rely on History

Believe it or not, historical keyword data is still valuable to look at and use as a guide to determine organic keyword traffic. One of the greatest benefits is the seasonal data that you’ve saved from previous years. You can bank on the fact that you may have some of the same keywords from, say, Christmas time last year, and these will be very valuable in helping you determine content and keyword generation for the Christmas season this year.

Overall, while “not provided” seems like a set-back for many SEOs, there are numerous ways to make sense of and access keywords and data. With every new innovation in the 21st century technological world, learning to adapt and change has played a major role. In following some of the advice above, you too can learn how to work around the roadblocks of the “not provided” phenomenon.


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