Google Analytics: All About “Not Provided”
Those using Google Analytics have been frustrated with the growing percentage of search terms that are showing up as “not provided”. After all, knowing those search terms are an important part of analyzing and optimizing your website. So what is behind the growth of “not provided” data and what can you do about it?
What is “Not Provided”?
Not provided searches are those that are conducted from a user who utilizes a secure server. Secure servers can be identified because they have an “s” at the end of the http at the beginning of their URL. This is an important part of web privacy and security. With that thought in mind, it is understandable that these searches would not show up in your analytics. Why have they been increasing to the point where “not provided” is 90% or more for some sites?
The answer is simple. Go to the Google search. In your address bar you will see that you have been redirected to Google’s secure search, which has an https address. Therefore any searches you perform from that address are now considered secure, and will not show up in your Google Analytics. They will be sorted to “not provided”.
Google says it is for privacy. Interestingly enough, if you pay for Google AdWords you will get that information. That has given rise to theories that it is being done to encourage the purchase of AdWords from Google. Google is, after all, a for-profit corporation. It is also possible that Google is preparing a “Premium” form of Google Analytics where the “not provided” information will be provided. Charging for the information however, would contradict Google’s claim it is doing it for security.
If you are frustrated by lack of keywords being provided by Google Analytics there are some workarounds.
- Google’s Webmaster Tools can help by going into your Traffic menu and looking at your “Search Queries”. It will be basic information but it will provide some guidance.
- There is another area of Google Analytics that can provide some insight. Go to the Search Engine Optimization section and look at your Queries. Again, it is not detailed but will give you basic data.
- If you buy Google AdWords, pay more attention to the data provided from the data Google provides.
- Increase your focus on non-Google keywords.
- Look at your historical data. Your keywords may not have changed that much. You will however be able to see if, and how, they change seasonally, and prepare accordingly.
- Landing page reports in Google Analytics can give you a clue as to what people are searching for. Use the most frequented landing pages as a guide to what keywords may be useful.
There are more complicated workarounds using filters and settings for those with larger, more complicated sites. For most, the above list will at least provide a start. “Not Provided” should increase the confidence we can have that Google is attempting to protect our information. It can, however, bring frustration for those charged with analyzing data.