‘Keyword not provided’ impact in Google Analytics

Google Logo 2012We’ve been asked by a lot of people “What is Keyword Not Provided” in Google Analytics?”

In order to make our searches ‘safer’ Google announced in October 2011 that it would start to encrypt searches for users who were logged in to their Google account through Google.com. This would include their subdomains such as Google Plus. This has since rolled out in the UK as of March 5th and I wanted to document the initial impact of the change for webmasters and brand managers.

Within Google Analytics you can see which keywords people have searched for, then clicked on to reach your site. But with this new encryption the “Keyword not provided” field has cropped up. As more and more people stay logged into Google while making searches, this field has grown in popularity.

I have my own website that notches up around 30k visitors per month. I sometimes use the site to perform certain tests based on traffic, analytics and usability, and I’m more than happy to share the ‘Keyword Not Provided’ stats from Google Analytics within this blog:

1st Sep – 30th Nov
Screenshot showing amount of hits for keyword not provided from September 1st to November 30th

1st Jan – 27th Mar
Screenshot showing amount of hits for testing website from January 1st to March 27th for keyword not provided.

As you can see from the two charts above, there has been a huge jump since this change was implemented by Google and migrated across to the UK.

Google is therefore losing grip of what traffic it is sending to sites. 70% of search traffic comes through SEO. Webmasters are losing the visibility of their performing keywords and Google’s visibility is therefore waning. These are very disturbing times for companies that use Google analytics – especially considering that ‘keyword not provided’ will increase even more so over the next couple of months with FireFox’s latest announcement.

Beyond Google Analytics

This issue has transcended Google analytics. For other clients of ours who use Omniture we have seen “Keyword unavailable” go up over the last 6 months. For two of our clients that gain 500,000 visitors a month, “keyword unavailable” in Omniture accounts for between 5-7% of traffic.

Is this something that we just simply have to get used to?