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Google’s Keyword Data ‘Not Provided’

Online businesses aren’t able to see up to 50% of their keyword data after a recent Google change

For years, Google has been a major partner for content publishers. Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and usable,” – a concept all passionate online publishers could agree with.

We’ve been historically pleased with all the opportunities Google affords publishers – from organic search to paid Adwords campaigns, the search giant’s ability to bring content to target audiences has helped publishers grow their online businesses.

Furthermore, Google Analytics has helped us all monitor our websites more accurately. We are able to see how our audience members find our content, the keyword phrases they enter on and the conversions that take place, ultimately providing a look at the overall health of our businesses.

However, a new change announced on October 18th that conceals referral search data in Google Analytics has become the most negative action by Google in recent history.

Without this data being present and accurate, publishers cannot fully grasp how people come to their websites. This makes it difficult to optimize a website by focusing on the most relevant content defined by audience actions.

A single-digit percent change

Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land interviewed Matt Cutts, Google’s lead software engineer prior to the full release of this major reporting change. Cutts explained that the change would only affect registered users who were already signed in at Google under a secure connection. He also said that it would only affect “single-digit percentages” of all Google searchers on Google.com.

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Here is where much of the current uproar has come from. According to SEOMoz, some percentages have risen past single-digits and into the 20%+ range. At Hubspot, Brain Whalley reported that, “across all sites, 11.36% of organic traffic has arrived without a keyword set during this time period.” Whalley continued by saying, “at least 423 HubSpot customers have experienced more than 20% of their organic search traffic getting stuck in this #SSLpocolypse black hole, and 15 others have lost more than 50% of their traffic’s keyword data.

At the Mequoda Daily, we’ve experienced 10.65% of our keyword data categorized as “(not provided)”. Although this number isn’t as high as some have experienced, it is slightly over the single-digit expectation Matt Cutts gave.

Advertisers not affected

One interesting part of this puzzle is that advertisers using Google Adwords are still able to see referring data, according to a Google post. This is so “to enable advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present you.”

So it seems if you are “partnering” with Google for organic traffic, you will miss out on a percentage of the keyword data. Many websites are reporting that percentage to be in the double-digits, not single digits. It also seems that if you are willing to spend money with Google, you’re still able to see all the keyword data associated with your campaigns…

We will be sure to keep you informed on this issue. As publishers, we require that hidden data to provide our audiences with the best content for their needs – Google has now made it harder to do so.

Posted in Subscription Website Publishing

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2 thoughts on “Google’s Keyword Data ‘Not Provided’

  1. Mike says:

    Avinash Kaushik has an excellent post up about how to tease out some insights from (not provided) organic search entries. It can be found here:

    http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/google-secure-search-keyword-data-analysis/

  2. S.J. says:

    When I see a business scaling back on essential services I immediately think one of two things are in play.

    1. The business is scaling back slowly because they intend to shut down that service completely or reduce it to bare bones in order to save on costs.

    Or

    2. The business has decided they can split an existing service and offer the basics as a free version and the more robust services become premium services that must be paid for.

    So I am left asking myself, is Google shutting down Analytics or trying to ease us into paying for what has always been free? I suppose it’s possible that Google is just suffering from major oversights, but somehow I doubt that Google got where they are by overlooking things.

    Either way it may be time to start shopping around for a new analytics tool.

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