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Getting Around the “Not Provided” Conundrum

The Google Analytics of today surely brings a lot of great features that website owners can use to determine their sites’ results and performance. But in some aspects, the old Google Analytics was more useful, especially when it comes to keywords.

The thing we’re getting at specifically here is the recent issue with “(not provided).”


The story with “(not provided)” started a while ago when Google introduced SSL secure searches for logged in users. The result for website owners was that from that day forward, every visitor coming to a site through a Google search while being logged in to their Google account wouldn’t pass any keyword data.

In other words, if the keyword referral data in your Analytics says “(not provided),” this means that the search was done by a logged in user. A couple of months ago, “(not provided)” was 60% of all searches. Today, it’s even worse.

Just recently, Google made all searches secure, no matter if the searcher is logged in or not. In plain English, this means that any data regarding the direct keywords bringing you traffic are no longer available in Google Analytics. But there are still some things we can do about it:

Landing Page Extraction

The first place to look into would be the landing pages that “(not provided)” visitors come to. We set up a filter that will examine the destination URL and show it to us instead of just the simple “(not provided)” label.

This doesn’t reveal the exact keyword used, but it can still give us a good idea regarding the steps we can take next, if needed.

This is done by setting a filter in the Admin section for a specific Analytics profile. Here are the settings to use:



The “(not provided)” change doesn’t affect AdWords traffic. All visitors that come to your site after clicking on your ad bring their keyword data along.

Therefore, if you really want to examine a specific keyword opportunity (and you have the budget to do so), you can set up a campaign designed mainly to test the keyword rather than earning you money.

The strong point of this technique is that Google surely won’t close the doors on it. Erasing keyword data from AdWords would make their standard CPC model of advertising pointless.

Webmaster Tools

While Google Analytics is not that keen on giving you keyword data, you can still go to Webmaster Tools to get some of it. Although the numbers you’ll find there are only a part of your overall traffic, the keyword distribution gives you a good idea on the possible areas for improvement.

Go to Search Traffic > Search Queries to see the following:


Surveying Visitors

This technique is very “manual” in nature and it relies on your visitors being engaged with your site enough to give you their feedback.

You can use a tool like Qualaroo to set up simple surveys and ask your visitors about the keyword they used to come to your site. The tool can be configured to display the survey box only for Google’s visitors, so there’s no need to nag 100% of your audience.


The Simple Solution – Use Bing

Since Google isn’t eager on giving us their keyword data, we can go to Bing to get it. Bing’s traffic is always lower than Google’s, but their data can still be used as guidance. So instead of paying attention to the raw numbers, look at your reports from a bird’s eye view and try to notice the overall distribution of keywords, the trends, and the top performing pairs of keywords and landing pages.

Have you seen the impact of “(not provided)” in your Analytics reports yet? What’s your take on this?