What does Keyword (not provided) in Google Analytics mean?

In the keyword report in Google Analytics (possibly called something else in alternative analytics tools), the predominant keyword these days is (not provided). This first time this appeared in reports was June 2010, with the arrival of a more secure version of Google search, accessible via https.

Next, in October, 2011, Google expanded this security measure to improve the security of search. Among others, for people who (increasingly) made use of insecure internet connections in public locations, according to Google.

Keyword not provided in Google Analytics

The search queries concerned where the ones done by users that where at the time logged in to their Google Account. Think Gmail, Google+ and yes, Google Analytics.

When also browsers, including Chrome started to use the secure version of Google as the default option for their search, the percentage (not provided) already increased significantly.

However, the biggest and final change was made when it became clear that security services had direct access to the servers of technology companies in 2013. In October that year, Google decided to further ramp up security to the point where (not provided) is really the only significant value in the keyword report.

Note: this doesn’t apply to clicks that users make on Google Ads. For these the keywords are still registered. An advertiser can thereby still optimize its campaigns.

What does (not provided) mean for you and your website?

Regardless of the type of visitors you may have, the % of (not provided) of the total is going to be massive.

While Moz.com estimated the percentage for search traffic to their site to be around 12% at the end of 2011, nowadays that percentage is around 95% for everyone.

If you happen to have visitors who actually do most of their jobs online and usually register to multiple Google products, it can even be 100%.

What to do about (not provided)?

When it comes to storing the information that used to be available, that’s simply no longer possible as Google doesn’t disclose it. There is a great alternative though nowadays.

Next to the increased security, Google also introduced the option to integrate Google Search Console with Google Analytics. The first version of this integration (with the then named Webmaster Tools) was purely about a distinct data set with keyword volume and the position your site ranked for those.

By now, however, the integration has advanced impressively. After connecting Google Analytics and the Search Console, you now get insight into the combined data of:

  • the position, clicks and bounce rates of entry pages
  • the same data for individual countries and devices
  • keyword data up to 16 months back

In short, after a period of having navigated through keyword data pretty much blindfolded, slowly the view is becoming more and more clear again.

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