Google Hides Keyword Data From Organic Search Analytics

, Posted by Adrian Kingwell in Adrian's posts, Blog, Web Analytics

You may be aware that Google recently chose to mask all organic search phrase data under the “(not provided)” term. That means you will no longer know which organic search terms drove traffic to your site.

What are Google doing?

They used to do this only for users signed into Google accounts, searching via a secure https connection. But now this has changed. All search phrase data is hidden, under the guise of increasing the privacy of their user base. Who knows what their real reasons are…

Clearly this will have an impact on both SEO strategies and how we measure search traffic.

Paid search remains completely unaffected by this change, and will continue to provide keyword data as before. It appears that if you want to find out what words your visitors are searching on, you’ll have to pay Google for it.

What should we do about it?

As a result, some companies will cut spend on SEO and divert it into paid campaigns. Others may find ways of accessing search phrase data using tools or approaches they have developed.

In both cases, first consider setting up a meeting between your SEO and Analytics teams to discuss possible measurement strategies moving forward.

While there are vendors out there that claim to be able to reveal the hidden ‘not provided’ traffic, there is no absolute certainty behind these methods – only educated guesses. They will be working off the same data that you should have access to.

In the meantime, Google Webmaster Tools may provide some data in lieu of full reporting. Alternatively you might look at organic traffic for other search engines, like Bing, although volumes will be low in comparison.

It is very much a case of ‘wait and see’ for the immediate term and then opening communication between SEO, SEM, Analytics and Marketing staff to plan the best way ahead.