Google Cranks Up ‘Not Provided’ Keywords, Says Ads Aren’t The ReasonBy: Chris Crum - September 24, 2013
It looks like the percentage of keywords that are listed as “not provided” in your Google Analytics account is going to keep going up, as Google is reportedly moving to switch all users to secure search regardless of whether or not they’re signed in.
Have you noticed an increase in the amount of keywords that are labeled as not provided? Let us know in the comments.
As I’m sure you’ll recall, Google launched SSL Search on Google.com as the default for signed in users about two years ago, claiming it was a move to protect user privacy. This had an unfortunate side effect for webmasters, as it means that those searching with this experience do not have any keyword data to contribute. Google masks the search terms these people use under the “Not Provided” label, and for a lot of sites, this tends to account for the majority of their search traffic.
Google still provides this kind of data in AdWords, however, and is often criticized for doing so. Some don’t believe Google’s more honorable sounding privacy reasoning, but rather that Google is simply doing this to increase its own revenue.
In the early days of the feature, the percentage of queries labeled not provided was supposed to be somewhere around 1%. Reports shortly thereafter had it closer to 8%, with more recent accounts having the number ranging from 40% to 80%. Everyone pretty much seems to agree that the number has been increasing, and it looks like it may increase even more.
Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land reports that Google is making secure search the default for all Google users, sharing this statement from the company:
We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year. We’re now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in.
We want to provide SSL protection to as many users as we can, in as many regions as we can — we added non-signed-in Chrome omnibox searches earlier this year, and more recently other users who aren’t signed in. We’re going to continue expanding our use of SSL in our services because we believe it’s a good thing for users….The motivation here is not to drive the ads side — it’s for our search users.
ClickConsult has a site called NotProvidedCount.com, which tracks the rise of “not provided” queries for sixty sites, and graphs the average (via Sullivan). There’s also a live counter, which as of the time of this writing is floating around 74%.
“Grouping a large number of keywords under the banner of (not provided) denies site owners fundamental information about how their site is performing in organic search,” the site says. “The percentage of (not provided) traffic Google is sending your site is steadily rising, and will one day hit 100%.”
It certainly looks that way based on Google’s statement and the obvious trending increase.
Google does still provide search terms in Webmaster Central, but as Sullivan noted in a recent article, it’s not great for historical data, though Google is increasing the timeframe. Historical data is not an issue in AdWords.
Regardless of Google’s motive for moving to a full-on encrypted search experience for all users, it’s going to mean that keyword data in Google Analytics is going to become obsolete at worst, and much less helpful at best.
This also comes after Google killed its popular Keyword Tool to get people to use its newer Keyword Planner product. A lot of webmasters/SEOs have been pretty perturbed by that too.
A recent report from MarketLive found that merchants saw “significant changes” in the mix of paid/organic traffic. Paid search visits made up about a third of total search engine visits (up from 26% the previous year). Search visit growth slowed in the first six months of the year, but paid was up 30% while organic was down 3%.
Do you think the “not provided” percentages will hit 100%? Share your thoughts in the comments.