Should you worry about keyword (not provided)?

What the heck are you talking about (not provided)?

At the time of originally writing this post, we'd been dealing with the keyword not provided issue for a couple of years, with it causing an increasing amount of concern and difficulty with regard to monitoring the search terms that bring people to our sites.

Now we're significantly down the line in terms of the restricted visibility of keywords, we're more informed than ever in terms of how to combat keyword not provided, and what tools you can use to get those all important organic search terms.

A bit of background

Google, of course, is the biggest search engine. It deals with the vast majority of search traffic, and provides the de-facto standard ‘Analytics’ package with which most site owners monitor traffic to their sites.

It also provides a multitude of other free and costed products such as Gmail, Adwords, Google+, and let’s not forget, the Android mobile OS. Most of these services require the user to have a Google account and be logged in to get the best from them.

So…. free stuff, what’s the problem?

A couple of years ago, Google Analytics started concealing the keywords that were used by searchers who connected to Google over a secure connection, which by its nature meant all those searches carried out while users were logged into their Google accounts. As more and more people acquired accounts, the percentage of search key phrases which were concealed started rising. As of 23rd September 2013 Google made an update and started rolling out a system whereby ALL search traffic is done over a secure connection. Meaning no Google keyword data in Analytics will likely soon be a reality for most site owners.

As a site owner (or a marketer) it’s of great value to know what search terms are sending traffic to your site - it lets you know what your customer wants, and allows you to tailor your site offer to your customers… thus getting more traffic…. (not provided) hides this information.

How do you replace 'keyword not provided'?

To cut a long story short, in our opinion it's not worth the time it takes to mine Google Analytics for organic keywords anymore, at least not directly within the organic channel filter. The amount of organic sessions resulting in 'keyword not provided' will only rise as more users sign up to Google services and search via secure connections, so what does this mean for business owners looking to maximise their search engine optimisation?

One of our favourite tools for replacing keyword not provided is Google's Search Console - or webmaster tools to Google aficionados. Search console directly replaces keyword not provided, giving you access to the search queries that users are typing into Google to find your website. Better yet, it provides you with the amount of impressions your website has received alongside clicks, providing you with insight into click through rate. This might not mean much to you, but by comparing how many clicks you're getting to the amount of impressions your site has gained over the last month or so, you can investigate into how your meta data is performing, and adjust your page titles and meta descriptions to entice users to your website, all with the aim of improving your CTR which should result in moving up the rankings.

Our second tip for replacing keyword not provided is: by using Google and external tools like Keywords Everywhere, you can find out how many searches your target keywords are generating per month, plus how many their related terms acquire on a monthly basis. You can then compile a list of the terms most relevant to you, and expand on this by using free tools like Uber Suggest and Moz's Keyword Explorer, before looking into how your site performs for these.

Why does Google display keyword (not provided)?

Our most cynical answer, which ties into Google's latest move in limiting access to their keyword planner tool, is that Google are first and foremost a business, and by limiting the amount of knowledge you can glean from free tools, users are more likely to end up spending money to access the huge amount of data Google holds.

That's not to say that you shouldn't advertise on Google, as Adwords is one of the most effective channels in driving qualified traffic to your website, we're simply saying that the data is likely to become more restricted over time.


As an agency we use a wide array of tools to help us, and we’re always researching what’s the best tool for the job. If you'd like some advice on how to improve your visibility in Organic Search, and how to combat keyword (not provided), feel free to get in touch with me.

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