Last Updated on September 9, 2020
Not Provided Search Activity — a critical data point on what is driving organic traffic to your website — in Google Analytics has been slowly increasing. Keywords that brought qualified visitors to your website is now not provided. We riffed about this back in June, grousing about how website keyword data is getting diluted. Well now, Google quietly took it all away. In this post we’ll explain this monumental change and its implications to White Hat SEO.
Not Provided Keyword Data In A Post-Prism World
Last week Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land reported on the confusing world of “secure search.” For those of you who want the get-to-the-point-please-don’t-make-me-slog-through-paragraphs-of-stuff version, here a scannable synopsis of what “Not Provided” means to you and your website:
- Since 2011 Google has been encrypting searches for anyone who was logged into their Google account. GA has been reported clicks to your website as “Not Provided.”
- The official reason given…. “to protect privacy.”
- The impact was keenly felt by Webmasters.
- Basically, 30-75%+ of organic search information was not provided or masked. And this number continued to rise every month.
- This meant that businesses didn’t really know the search terms (keywords) were getting visitors to their website.
- Last week Google confirmed they complete shut off all search activity info.
- They switched on encryption for people who aren’t signed in as well as those who are.
- This means that in Analytics 100% of search terms from Google have the notation “Not Provided.”
- There’s been a lot of speculation about why Google made this swift and dramatic shift.
- Back in June Google was accused of giving the National Security Agency access to its search data through the PRISM spying program.
- Another reason is the obvious boost to online advertising sales (Google AdWords).
Encrypted Search Loophole & Organic SEO Implications
The only place to get 100% of the data related to Google search (drumroll, please) is to PAY for it. You can still get this information from Yahoo and Bing. At least for now those are the only true workarounds for encrypted or Not Provided keyword data.
In the past this search activity data was commonly scraped as part of keyword research. It was also overlayed with SEO rankings. Historic data may be available, so we recommend that you download it out of Google Anlaytics and Webmaster Tools now. Put it into a form where you can review it later.
While you won’t get this data in GA anymore, you can get search-related data from your Google AdWords account. There’s also a source in Webmaster Tools (as queries). We suggest pouring over this data at least monthly to give insight on your website’s content performance. Webmaster Tools is now providing 3 months of data (previously it reported only one month). You’ll want to export this info to complete further analysis.
Are you bummed out about this latest Google “Not Provided” change? What’s your strategy moving forward?