(Not Provided) for the Layperson

Depending on your social media sphere, you may or may not have heard that Google has fully rolled out “secure search” for all Google.com searches, which to us SEO’s means that (Not Provided) will now account for pretty much all of our incoming keyword data in Google Analytics.

If this news fills you with anger and despair, you probably already know the jist and you should check out Search Engine Land’s article on the matter to begin the grieving process.

In this post we’ll go over what this means for the average website owner.

What is (Not Provided)?

“Not Provided” is what shows up in Google Analytics when Google does not pass along keyword information from organic searches.

Historically, whenever someone performed a Google search and clicked on a result, the search terms they used were passed through to Google Analytics, allowing the site owner to see what phrases brought people to their website. Pretty handy.

In October 2011 (ish) Google started “not providing” keyword data in the name of privacy and security for logged-in Google users. This was a pain, since we no longer could see the whole story about how folks were getting to our sites.

Now it appears that it will simply apply to all organic searches, regardless of whether or not you’re logged-in, which means we can expect virtually all inbound keyword data to be replaced with “Not Provided” instead.

What does this mean to me?

As you might imagine, knowing what phrases brought people to your website can be very valuable. It helps you understand how people find your content, and whether or not they got what they were looking for. It helps provide ideas for new content, or things you can add to existing content to better serve your audience. It’s also crucial in order to separate branded and non-branded traffic on your site to see how well your SEO efforts are paying off.

There were a great many advantages to having access to this information… and now you don’t.

So now what?

I wish I had an answer.

AdWords still provides keyword data (which makes Google’s claim that this is for search security a bit dubious). Google Webmaster Tools still provides impressions data, which I guess is better than nothing… But that’s about it.

Some say Google might offer the data in a paid version of Analytics.

Danny Sullivan thinks Google should require websites to use secured servers if they want the keyword data, which I think is a great solution. But I won’t hold my breath.

For now all we can do is accept the limitation and move on!

For more info you can check out Rand Fishkin’s special edition Whiteboard Tuesday.

Now, let the conspiracies flow!


  • martechsales

    This is a, how shall I say… discourteous move by Google. Thanks for nothing, jerks! But, the Conspiracy Keanu at the end really makes a good point.

    • That’s a rather nice way of putting it :P Fortunately a good conspiracy Keanu helps ease all pains.