Blog Post

Google Analytics showing keyword as NOT PROVIDED


In case you have not been following along all the SEO bloggers and forums, there is somewhat big news. Google has decided to stop providing the keyword used by a searcher on Google.com if that user is logged into GoogleApps at the time of the search. This include GMail users, among others, and is causing ripples through the SEO community. So what does this really mean?

I'm sure most of you are not interested in the technical details behind what is happening. Encrypted referrer headers, etc, are not all that interesting to an SEO reseller who is trying to figure out what to say to their customer who barely understands search engine optimization as it is. Now they have this confusing report showing traffic from a keyword called NOT PROVIDED? WTF? So what do you say?

Google has decided to block this data for some users

This is the short answer. And there seems to be little you can do about it. If you want to read more on the search query block you can check out SearchEngineLand. You can also tune into what Rand has to say about this over at SEOMoz.org. They have some very interesting data from a survey they did on this issue that's definitely worth a read. They also expose some of their own Google Analytics data showing that 18% of their traffic is now showing up under the keyword "NOT PROVIDED." I think it's fair to say that SEOMoz is not happy. They ultimately conclude that it's just not fun living under the shadow of a massive monopoly (read: Google).

So what does Google say about this?

Matt Cutts simply says that they believe the total average impact (over all websites in the world) to be in the single digits. More specifically, Google explains that the 18% impact on SEOMoz is because visitors to SEOMoz are more tech-savvy - and are therefore more likely to be logged into GoogleApps than your average internet searcher... This is a feasible argument, but we still don't have to like it.

What is amazing to me is the hypocritical approach at Google. I've written about it many times. Don't fall for their fake motto: Do no evil. It's simply brilliant PR for "make TONS of money while making people believe you care." (see how Google avoids taxes and this China business). They are, after all, a corporation with a legal responsibility to make money. If they feel they can do so here through the obfuscation of information that their competitors rely on - you can bet they will.