Gauges

Google, search terms, and (not provided)

September 09, 2014

Let's talk about why Gauges doesn't display your full keyword data.

“Why can’t I see my search terms?”

This is a question we hear pretty frequently at Gauges support. It’s a reasonable question - as a marketer, you want to know which keywords your organic visitors use to reach your site, and you want your web analytics tool to tell you these things. The answer to this question is slightly complicated, so we thought it would be a good topic for a blog post.

Google made a big change to its privacy policy back in October, 2011. Basically, if someone is logged into any product owned by Google (gmail, AdWords, YouTube, etc) any search he or she makes on Google will be performed over SSL, and the keyword data will be masked. That is to say, we can’t actually get the organic search terms that bring visitors to your site, if they’re logged into their Google account and using Google to find you. Google simply does not make this information public.

Google doesn’t even reveal this type of organic search term data to its own users in Google Analytics, substituting “(not provided)” for the actual terms used. We don’t think “(not provided)” is very useful, so we simply disregard any searches made over SSL. We’ll only show you search terms we can actually see, which means a smaller, more actionable set of keywords exposed to you in your dashboard.

Not Provided Count has been charting the rise of “not provided” over time. By their estimate, Google will be masking all searches by the end of 2015.

Google's Not Provided count over time Graph of “Not Provided” search results over time

We are still able to provide some keyword data from Google, provided the person performing that search is not logged into a Google product, or visited your site using Google’s paid search. We can still track organic data from other search engines, such as Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.

Here’s what a breakdown of search engine traffic with keyword data looked like for us in August. We’re seeing fewer and fewer visits from search engines providing us keyword data these days:

Search engine visits in Gauges

Bing and Yahoo account for slightly less than half of our average search traffic. We get a small amount of traffic from visitors using other search engines, like DuckDuckGo and search.com, but Google is still the biggest player in the field. The keyword information Gauges is able to provide is dramatically smaller than before Google made its privacy policy change in 2011.

Internet marketers, SEOs and business owners have been forced to adapt in the nearly 3 years since this change. However, keyword data is just one aspect of modern marketing, and smart marketers know there’s more to understanding visitor behavior than the search terms they use. Even without full organic keyword data from Google, Gauges will be there to track your most popular content, display your visitors in real time with AirTraffic, and share your traffic data with your entire team.