The Implications of Google’s ‘Not Provided’ for SEO and Brands – Looking Beyond Google Analytics

The growth of Google Analytics ‘not provided’ keyword traffic percentages has become the bane of digital marketers across the globe. How do you now measure SEO performance when sometimes over 50% of your organic web traffic is undisclosed.

It’s a question that crops up regularly in Client meetings. Alongside the question – is this percentage likely to increase in the future? And if so, one day, will all details of the actual keywords driving organic traffic to our web sites be a complete mystery to all bar Google themselves?

Google launched encrypted search back in 2010 and since then, more and more searches have been routed through secure search including searches on Google properties beyond www.google.com i.e. international domains, Firefox 14 users, Safari in iOS6, and the latest being the next version of Chrome (25).

What does this mean for digital marketers and brands and anyone who has a website? Put plainly, data insights. We have lost the ability to draw insights at keyword level from organic traffic, and as such it is impossible now to identify trends, and ROI at a keyword level, from Google Analytics.

There are ways to still see this data though.

Tactics to Reclaim Data Insights

Google Webmaster Tools
One way to get the data back is via Google Webmaster Tools. The key thrust here is that the search term is no longer in the referrer, but Google still stores the search terms in the query log. This data is available to you in GWT, where you can access the top 2,000 searches over the last 90 days.

Bing
You can still see organic keyword data on Bing.

PPC
Keyword data insights can still of course be gleaned from PPC activity, though clearly not organic data.

Going Forward
It’s a fair assumption that we are edging closer to 100% secure search, at some point in the future. With that in mind, how do we plan for the future?
In part we must look to track this data from other sources, Google Webmaster Tools for instance, there are other analytics tools (at a cost).
In the absence of detailed keyword performance metrics, we must look at the wider picture for SEO attribution – emphasis is on detailed benchmarking, tracking general uplift in terms of organic traffic volumes over time, and resultant revenue from organic traffic or other ‘trackable’ conversion data.

Contact Scott Muir at [email protected]

digital marketing agency – www.regroup-media.co.uk