Keywords Not Provided Passes the 60% Mark

If there is still any doubt that keyword detail will completely disappear at some point in the very near future my monthly analytics should dispel it. The analytics for my blog indicate that over 60% of the keywords are no longer provided.

While my blog has a more technical readership than many sites and the users have very high adoption rate of Chrome and Firefox, it is provides strong directional indication of what will happen on most sites in the coming months.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Keywords Not Provided Passes the 60% Mark by

25 thoughts on “Keywords Not Provided Passes the 60% Mark”

  1. This is frustrating, Mike! As SEM’ers we’re trying to make progress every day organically and in paid search, and this makes it even more difficult to attribute that progress to certain target keywords when they may be pooled into “not provided”. I agree your readership may have something to do with the extent of your “not provided” queries (60% is a lot), I have seen my clients’ numbers grow steadily as well.

  2. This is frustrating and the trend is definitely going in that direction. But I don’t think king “not provided” will reign forever. Perhaps in the future when a user allows data to be shared with a website, the queries will be shared as well.

    At least paid search data is unaffected by this! And as a internet user it’s comforting that privacy is a priority- even if there are some draw backs.

  3. In my german local seo blog the percentage of Keywords (not provided) is now 41,20%. This will for sure rise even more in the next time… Since 50% of my visitors are still using Firefox 13 and since germans are always very slow in updating their browsers, it will take a little bit more time here, than in the US though…

  4. @Justin
    It is frustrating but we are but advisors to the clients. If Google removes one tool, we need to find others that produce results.

    I assume most folks with technical blogs will be i the same area.

    I agree that privacy is nice. But in this case, they are not really private. Google has the information. They have not been a bastion of privacy protection of late.

    I would be interested to hear back in 3 months from you. I think I am at the high end of the scale but I think the direction is clear….

  5. It pisses me off. Back when Matt Cutts first announced this he said it would be less than 10% of traffic. Its not even close. My smb’s don’t get anywhere near those numbers but the data is getting harder to follow.

    For smb’s clarity on keywords can be critical especially if their users tend to use search to find the business or service.

    Its part of an assault on SEO imho and that of others. Aaron Wall is probably the most consistently vocal in this regard.

    The Google announcement was lie. Not only wasn’t it close to true then but they were feverishly working on google + back then with a strong desire to get more people to be signed into google more often.

    Much of the info google puts out is deceptive enough that it makes keyword research that much more difficult. This was the nail in the coffin and they have managed to carry through on this bullshit program which they proposed under a false banner of personal security.

    Google–the company with more private info on more users in more ways than anyone else. They have been fighting in the courts against their invasions of privacy.

    What it really is …is the power of a monopoly to gain still more monopoly control over an aspect of the web.


    😀 have a nice day 😀

  6. So what is Google really getting at? My first thought was privacy as well, but like Mike said Google has the information so it’s not private at all.

    For small business owners with very little technical knowledge that go it alone (is this most small business owners?), keyword info is (was) something you could sink your teeth into. It’s great info to have when setting up all of your Google paid products as well. 😉

    1. @Keith
      It was as earlpearl and others point out, a somewhat self serving decision. You can still get keywords from an Adwords Campaign so there is a degree of disingenuity on multiple fronts.

  7. Mike:

    I had a 2nd quick thought after looking at the kywrd phrases among your top ten.

    Some of them represent levels of dissatisfaction with google. SMB’s are getting those frigging messages from google and in so many cases they don’t know what is going on. Really, google is a failure at communicating.

    Assuming you had somewhere around 13,000 search visits for the month…and also suspecting that based on extraordinary wide variety of search terms when people are signed into google….I’d just guess there is a lot of dissatisfaction out there among smbs getting those danged problem messages….

    “we currently do not support the location”

    “your listing on google places will soon be updated”

    😀 Believing as I do in all sorts of conspiracy theories, and recognizing that Google got rid of the old forum information, simply to hide how incredibly unhappy smb’s were with google clusterf*cks, non service, merges, etc….here is what I suspect is occurring and why they are hiding keyword data from us:

    There is so much dissatisfaction from smb’s and from other web users as it applies to google services and lack of responses….the 2nd reason to hide kywrd data (besides screwing with SEO) was to hide the total and utter and complete levels of dissatisfaction with Google as exemplified by those search terms that reflect crappy google communications.

    1. @Veezy
      Here are the % of Keywords Not Provided since 10/2011
      Jul 2012 – 60.63%
      Jun 2012 – 56%
      May 2012 – 56%
      Apr 2012 – 52%
      Mar 2012 – 48%
      Feb 2012 – 33%
      Jan 2012 – 32%
      Dec 2011 – 29%
      Nov 2011 – 24%
      Oct 2011 – 1%

  8. I wonder what would have happened if Google instead:

    1) Provided an option to conceal your search data when logged in
    2) Stopped providing referral data when moving linking to a HTTP URL

    For those with privacy concerns, they can choose to conceal their search term data.

    Businesses that want/need search referral data to do a good job(tm), move their sites over to HTTPS thus allowing the referral data to naturally flow from Google secure search through to the resulting HTTPS website.

    In due course, that kind of action makes the entire internet a more secure place by increasing the volume of HTTPS traffic and avoiding everyone snooping on traffic in between the client and the destination – which is one of the reasons that Google cited why it was moving over to secure search for int the first place.

  9. Mike,

    I’ve got a friend who has recently written an amazing automated software deployment tool for .NET called Octopus Deploy. The people that are interested in automated release management obviously have a technology background & as such his website is over 50% (not provided) as well.

    What is more concerning however is that when you remove his brand/product phrases from the mix as well, he is left with around 20% visibility into what search data is helping his small business succeed online.

    I think the thing that frustrates me most about this move by Google is that it undermines all of the good work that Google themselves & the internet marketing profession have been diligently building for so long – trustworthiness & accountability.

    As the percentage of (not provided) continues to rise & it will continue to rise, how are individuals and businesses that use the internet as a key part of their marketing mix meant to attribute advertising dollars to different organic projects when a massive percentage of the keyword referral data is being masked by (not provided).

    I think it is disappointing to see Google take this stance, there were other options available that wouldn’t have had such a disastrous affect on a businesses ability measure and improve their business online.


  10. Mike: With the growth of google’s Not provided element, hiding keyword phrases for those signed into google…keyword research is much more difficult for a small business, yet as critical as it always was to try and

    A). First understandwhat terms users are searching for
    B). Understanding which terms work for conversion
    C). Setting up a goal to move the smb/site to higher rankings.

    Its a “bitch”. I was looking at an smb of ours that is several years old. We developed a new site for it several years ago and worked to get it higher rankings.

    The smb/business/ web site competes with up to about 5 other local/regional smb’s/sites. (# of competitors depends on how one views the geography and competition.). All of the other sites were older and clearly more established.

    The site uses adwords and bing/yahoo advertising. I value that as not only an adjunct to providing search phrases in the advertising slots above the organic/ maps/pinned results….but as a critical methodology to assess what keyword terms searchers are using.

    So I start looking at all SE traffic to the site: Google traffic is over 90%. (yikes).

    On this smb an aggressive Adwords campaign results in adwords clicks being slightly less but almost as much as organic/maps results:

    NOT PROVIDED is coming in at between 20-25% of organic clicks. But lets face it…people signed into google + are clicking on the ads. How many? I don’t know. But probably at a similar percentage rate.

    Now about my keyword data:

    Without getting into all the details, I’d just say that the simplest, possibly most intuitive views of the uninitiated at analytics data could present incredibly erroneous information. Specifically, if you tie an analytics campaign to an adwords campaign (something google encourages)…the simplest presentation of keyword data is going to OVERINFLATE traffic on keywords where you run broad term campaigns.

    BAM//BAM//BAM. Either you are getting terrible information from analytics if you tie the analytics campaign to adwords….or….if you don’t have an adwords campaign then the only visits you get are through organic/Maps and frankly google is hiding the keyword data on ever growing volumes of searchers, increasingly signed into Google.

    IMHO its a big effort by Google to make keyword research more difficult.

    I think the small smb is the BIG LOSER in this. To fully understand all the intracacies of keyword research one needs to spend enormous time studying it and keeping abreast of ever changing facets of google products.

    Aaron Wall of continuously says this. I agree wholeheartedly.

    Only specialists can stay abreast of everything. One cannot be an expert on all things. Its too time consuming.

    <b.To get back to that small smb and the importance of keyword research

    When we set up the url and focused on appropriate pages and phrases we did our keyword research and among other things we understood, even before we had seen the hard data, that probably one of, if not the most important keyword phrase was going to be —–Main industry phrase/ geographical phrase.

    Our question was simply which comes first…the geography or the industry phrase. Time and again I’ve found that this critical element changes for industry and market.

    We chose one alternative: All of the data we had before we started didn’t distinguish between the two alternative approaches.

    We picked the wrong one!!! Its popular and used a lot…but its only about 20% as popular as the alternative.

    So our site went up. We achieved very high ranking for the alternative we chose pretty quickly. Rankings for the alternative were okay but lagged.

    Once we realized our mistake, months later, after reviewing all data, especially the critical data from adwords, we went on a mad mad campaign to achieve #1 ranking for the alternative.

    Upon achieving that, leads and sales improved markedly. It made a big positive impact on the smb.

    Keword research is critical for the smb. Google is making it immeasurably more difficult. A pox on that damned NOT PROVIDED BS.

  11. earlpearl,

    Why would joining Google AdWords and Google Analytics together inflate or overstate the web statistics?

    Working that through in my head just now, I see the following happening:

    1) keyword data from organic clicks by users not signed into their Google account
    2) keyword data from AdWords clicks, regardless of being signed in or not
    3) (not provided) for organic clicks by users signed into their account

    Where in the above does the overstating or inflation happen?

    Have I overlooked something so obvious it should have smacked me in the face?


  12. Alistair:

    Google Analytics will overstate simple aggregate keyword traffic in some of the more visible and visited stats packages in this way:

    A). Say you are running an adwords campaign for a computer training school in Sydney Australia.
    B). Say you use google analytics.
    C). Google Analytics will encourage you to tie the adwords campaign to analytics for various further detail information with regard to conversions and conversion statistics.

    D). For the adwords campaign you might use both exact phrase and broad phrase for certain critical keywords:

    for example you might run both exact phrase and broad phrase for…

    computer training
    computer school
    Sydney computer school
    Sydney computer training
    computer training Sydney
    computer school Sydney.

    Lets just imagine those are the 4 most searched upon terms for that service.

    Just focus on the phrase computer training.

    ads will show for that specific phrase and will run against your keyword in the [exact phrase] row specifically each time a searcher uses precisely that phrase.

    Alternatively, broad phrase coverage of computer training might show an ad and record statistics for related phrases by users such as….

    computer training in sydney
    computer training near me
    computer training center
    computer training classes….and 1,000 different variations.

    When you tie adwords to analytics…the major presentation of keyword information within Analytics will show all the clicks from
    A) organic rankings
    B) A pinned ranking when the user clicks on the website (not the reviews)
    C all the traffic that clicks on the exact phrase ads
    D all the clicks that hit the broad phrase ad

    D is where the overstatement occurs for the keyword phrase “computer training”.

    Those broad phrase ads might generate lots and lots of clicks, in fact potentially myriads more than usage of the exact term.

    In our cases, by example, we’ll use a broad phrase for a popular term and an exact phrase. Analytics will show aggregate traffic that exceeds impressions for the precise term. That is crazy. It can’t happen.

    OOF that is very misleading. Alternatively Analytics shows a column of information described as “matched phrase” That reflects actual hits for the exact term. But to know that, you have to pay attention to a lot of detail and spend a tremendous amount of time learning all of the ins and outs of all of Google’s products.

    One simply has to be abreast of all of the details of analytics, adwords, etc. to catch on to all of these details.

    Its a daunting task. I don’t believe smb’s have the resources or man power to follow everything from google with detail. Enterprise businesses can do this. Enterprise SEM’s can do this with specialization. Otherwise its daunting.

  13. It’s absolutely ridiculous. My site is up to 50% now and I can only see this growing as more people sign up to Google products.

    It’s a clear attempt to force people into using AdWords. Google want to make it hard to quantify SEO and force doubters into thinking about AdWords as the only 100% measurable form of search marketing.

    Mike’s comment absolutely summed it up for me – “I agree that privacy is nice. But in this case, they are not really private. Google has the information. They have not been a bastion of privacy protection of late.”

  14. Great comments, thanks earlpearl!

    I thought I’d add my 2 cents from an SMB. This local auto repair shop gets around 20% not provided for all visits, but for new vists it’s up to 60%. 🙁

  15. couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of most commenters. “(not provided)” is increasingly hurting our customers’ ability to optimize their websites.

  16. I took a call from a google adwords customer service rep earlier today. While this thread is about google’s NOT PROVIDED data –I had commented earlier about how:

    1. growth in Not Provided and other issues makes keyword research significantly more difficult for the smb.

    2. then veered off into commentary about adwords/keyword research–all the details an smb or single seo has to follow to try and stay abreast of changes.

    Well—taking calls from G adwords customer reps is a good way to stay abreast of various changes, points of sophistication, etc. with adwords. It saves a lot of time in research, reading, watching tutorials, etc.

    The other point that grabbed my attention and is so incredibly different in a night and day completely opposite perspective is the following:

    Google gives incredible detailed, polite, knowledgeable, responsive, helpful, friendly, insightful customer service directly to adwords customers.

    Google treats those same smbs/ customers like SH!T in google +Local.

    Its astounding. Not another business in the world would do so. Actually sophisticated large businesses such as banks and airlines use deep data resources (something google is simply 10,000 times better at) to identify good customers and treat them well.

    Google could do that. But it doesn’t. Its deliberate. They don’t have to . They are a monopoly. They live without oversight from a larger entity and can get away with god awful responsiveness on the +Local side…while they treat you well and respectively on the Adwords side.

    Its simply astonishing and something you can’t find from any other entity anywhere.

    The content from all those smb’s is what drives searches in which certains of those smb’s do buy adwords. If not for both the content, and the usage…there would be no ads.

    Why google can’t raise its level of customer service to smb’s in the +Local side to something….possibly 10% as good as in the adwords side is beyond me. Sometimes those smbs are exactly the same.

    Okay…I know why they don’t do that. They are a monopoly. They choose not to improve that level of customer service. And no entity is on their collective Google A$$es to do so.

    Its a shame.

    my $0.02. 😀

  17. I feel I should point everyone to this article by Avinash which gives some really good tips on tracking this stuff. It’s especially useful to look at where the not provided visits are landing and what they are doing after that.

    Personally we focus on the long tail of search which in the last month has given us visits from just over 250,000 key words and variants.

    I’m not the SEO for our company but these little titbits have helped massively.

  18. Mike: I suppose you might see this, while its late comments will skip most others. Secondly its not the place to get high visibility on the issue of “not provided”.

    But, after all, thanks for providing this forum. Its a great place for me to KVETCH!!! 😀 😀

    With one of our smb’s recently adding a mobile site I was reviewing source activity via mobiles and reviewing keywords.

    Lest we all forget… is not blocking kewords from analytics on mobile sites.

    How Frigging ironic and deeply contrary to Matty Cutts original comments about why google was establishing “not provided” (as a security issue) let alone his original comments about “not provided” not exceeding 10% of traffic.


    keyword traffic from mobile sites does not include “not provided” data.

    Irony of ironies. There are significantly more opportunities to tie in with a direct user from a mobile device than from a land line device.

    So much for the “security crap” from Matt Cutts.

    I maintain the only reason big G did this was to make it harder to work on keyword research.

    The dogs.

    kvetch kvetch kvetch. 😀

  19. Mike,

    I’ve just carried out a study of 15 UK-based sites. Both B2B and B2C. August data shows an average of 23.6%. With a high of 64% for one B2B site and a low of 12.7% for one B2C website.

  20. Really appreciate all the comments submitted. At least I’m surrounded by plenty of compay in my frustration! I have clients for whom I do SEO and I also coach small businesses who wish to take on their own (for the most part). The “unknown” issue in particular has my coaching clients extremely frustrated. They finally learn to understand their customer’s online behavior a bit, start putting what they’ve learned into practice, and then the rug gets pulled out from under them! It seems that Google is so adamant about making SEO difficult that they’ve lost common sense in the process.

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