TL;DR – ‘Keywords not provided’ in Google Analytics is due to Google’s move to protect user search queries for privacy reasons. As a result, specific organic search keywords data became hidden. However, alternatives like Google Search Console and third-party SEO tools can provide insights into search queries.
In the ever-evolving world of digital marketing and SEO, there are few topics that spark as much discussion as the ‘keywords not provided’ message seen in Google Analytics. So, why has Google shielded these organic search keywords, and what does it mean for website owners and marketers?
Table of Contents
The Shift to User Privacy
The ‘keywords not provided’ conundrum began in 2011 when Google made the move to secure its search queries by default using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). The primary reason behind this decision was user privacy. Google wanted to protect the search terms of searchers, ensuring their queries remained confidential, especially when logged into their Google accounts.
Impact on Google Analytics
With this shift, website owners using Google Analytics noticed that most of their organic keywords data began to show up as ‘not provided’. Instead of seeing specific keywords that visitors used to find their website, they were met with this placeholder. This change left a gap in analytics data and metrics, making it harder for marketers to refine their SEO strategy based on keyword data.
Alternative Solutions and Workarounds
- Google Search Console: While Google Analytics may no longer provide all keyword specifics, Google Search Console (GSC) offers a valuable alternative. The queries report in GSC provides insights into the search queries that bring users to your website. By integrating your Google Analytics account with GSC, you can still get a sense of which keywords are driving organic traffic.
- Landing Pages Report: In Google Analytics, the landing pages report can offer clues about user intent. By examining which pages users land on from organic search, you can infer potential search terms.
- Google Ads and AdWords: For those invested in pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, Google Ads (formerly AdWords) provides keyword data for your ads. This method isn’t a direct replacement for missing organic data but can give insights into keyword performance and click-through rate (CTR).
- Third-Party SEO Tools: Several SEO tools in the market can help in keyword research and provide estimates on organic search keywords, filling the gap left by ‘keywords not provided’.
- Google Analytics 4 (GA4): The next generation of Google Analytics, GA4, has been introduced with new features. While it doesn’t fully resolve the ‘not provided’ issue, there are tutorials available that guide users on optimizing their data collection methods.
The Future of Keyword Data
The trend toward user privacy is not unique to Google. Other search engines and platforms are following suit. While organic search insights in Google Analytics may be limited, the emphasis is on understanding the user experience. Marketers are encouraged to use Google Search Console, leverage SEO tools, and focus on holistic SEO optimization that goes beyond just keywords.
The ‘keywords not provided’ challenge in Google Analytics was a game-changer for digital marketing and SEO professionals. However, with the know-how and the right tools like Google Webmaster Tools and Google Search Console, it’s still possible to craft effective strategies. The focus now shifts from pure keyword optimization to understanding user intent, improving site content, and offering the best possible user experience.
How to unlock “not provided” keywords in Google Analytics?
You cannot directly unlock “not provided” keywords in Google Analytics due to Google’s privacy measures. However, there are strategies and workarounds you can use to gather insights into your organic search traffic:
- Google Search Console: While Google Analytics may not provide the keyword data, Google Search Console offers a ‘Performance’ report that shows the keywords users type to find your website. You can see metrics like clicks, impressions, click-through rate, and average position. This doesn’t give you the full user journey, but it gives insight into how specific keywords perform.
- Landing Page Analysis: In Google Analytics, review the landing pages (the pages through which users enter your site) that receive organic traffic. By understanding which pages are popular, you can make educated guesses about the kinds of queries that are leading users to those pages.
- Paid Search Data: If you run Google Ads, you can see the exact keywords that are driving traffic to your site. While this only represents paid traffic, there might be overlap between organic and paid search terms.
- Create Segmented Organic Traffic Channels: In Google Analytics, segment your organic traffic by source (like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). Different search engines might provide different levels of keyword visibility.
- Use Third-Party Tools: SEO tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz might give insights into the potential keywords driving traffic to your site based on keyword rankings and estimated traffic.
- Combine Data from Multiple Sources: Integrating data from Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and third-party tools can give a more comprehensive view of your keyword performance.
- Analyze On-Site Search Queries: If your website has a search bar, you can track the queries users type into it. This provides insight into what users are looking for once they’re on your site.
- Ask Your Audience: Surveys, feedback forms, or direct communication with your users can provide insights into how they found your site or what they were searching for.
While these methods won’t replace the exact keyword data that’s missing from Google Analytics, they can offer valuable insights into user behavior and search intent.
Why are keywords not provided in google analytics?
In Google Analytics, you may notice that a significant portion of your organic search traffic shows up as “(not provided)” in the keyword report. This occurs because Google has made changes to protect user privacy by encrypting search data for logged-in users.
In October 2011, Google started using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption for searches performed by users signed into their Google accounts. This meant that the search query data from these users was no longer passed to websites through the HTTP referrer header. As a result, Google Analytics couldn’t access the specific keywords that led users to visit a website through organic search.
Since then, Google has expanded SSL encryption to all searches, even for users who are not logged into their Google accounts. Consequently, the majority of organic search traffic data in Google Analytics shows up as “(not provided)” because the actual keywords are hidden.
While you can no longer access the specific organic search keywords within Google Analytics, you can use other tools and methods to gain insights into your website’s organic search performance:
Google Search Console: Connect your website to Google Search Console and use the “Performance” report to view data about your website’s impressions, clicks, click-through rate (CTR), and average position in Google search results for specific keywords.
Google Analytics landing pages report: In Google Analytics, navigate to “Acquisition” > “All Traffic” > “Channels” and click on “Organic Search.” You can then review the landing pages that receive organic search traffic to understand which pages are driving visitors to your site.
Keyword research tools: Use keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz to analyze keyword rankings, search volume, and competition to identify potential keywords for your content and SEO strategy.
By combining data from these sources, you can gain a better understanding of your website’s organic search performance and the keywords that drive traffic to your site.
Published on: 2023-03-31
Updated on: 2023-10-22