One of the most useful features of analytics platforms is the ability to see which keyword/s someone used to find your website via search results. You can do this for paid and organic search and use this data to measure campaign success as well as informing future campaign decisions. In October 2011, Google announced an update to the way their search works. They started to make search results encrypted by default for users signed into their Google account. This meant users were automatically redirected to https://www.google.com/ – note the extra ‘s‘ in https which indicates a secure connection. According to Google, this move was to help protect users and their personalized search experience.
A word on (not provided)
While there is no hack to get this data back, there are some ways to make the best of the data that is left over and try to glean whatever insights we can from it.
Some of the better posts on this subject include:
- Data analysis of Google secure search by Avinash Kaushik
- How to steal some not provided data back from Google by Dan Barker
- Keyword analysis in a world of not provided by Rob Ousbey
While these techniques are far from a replacement, they can allow us to spot the trends we need in order to make smarter decisions.
As a consequence, this meant the keyword a user searched for would no longer be recorded by analytics if a user clicked through to your website. Furthermore, the referrer information was blocked as well. Instead, these would be reported as (not provided) which looks like this:
In this particular example, you can see that (not provided) is the number one referring keyword which has become more and more common for many websites. You can actually see the growth of (not provided) using this website which tracks it for 60 websites:
This increase is because of Google rolling out secure search as default for more and more users. One example being in January 2013 when all searches using Google Chrome were encrypted for signed in users.
It should be noted, however, this only applies to organic search. If a user clicks through to your website from an ad, you will get the keyword data.
This caused quite a bit of unrest in the organic search community as keyword data is pretty valuable, and the fact that this data was available for paid search projected some doubt on the claim from Google that this move was to protect users’ privacy.
The only consolation was that aggregated keyword data would still be displayed in Google Webmaster Tools; however, this is far less granular, and therefore far less useful than previous analytics keyword data.
Remember that only Google search results are affected here, you will still have full keyword data for other search engines. However, with Google being the dominant search engine in many countries, this is not much consolation!