We Hate Not Provided (But We Know What To Do About It With Google Analytics)

Over a year ago, Google began filtering all keywords that came from any user logged in to a Google account or searching through secure search into a bucket labeled "(not provided)". Unfortunately, instead of accounting for about 10% of keyword search results, as Google noted it would account for, the number has been climbing and climbing.

According to a recent study by Optify, sites are averaging 39% of search traffic being labeled as not provided. Another site is aggregating "(not provided)" data live on sixty different websites showing that, based on the trend they're seeing, "(not provided)" traffic will consume 100% of organic keyword traffic by October 29th of 2017. That's a ways out, but in the meantime, this traffic only continues to go up.

We've seen it firsthand as well. Take a look at traffic from the past year from one of our clients:

Not provided trends

This traffic has a very clear upward trend as the months go by. In addition to that, nearly 75% of these visits are brand new.

So what? What's the problem with an increasing rise in "(not provided)" search traffic?

In order to understand what potential customers are looking for and what they're doing once they hit a website based off of organic search, the search data needs to be seen. It's very difficult to make informed decisions with no data to begin with, and we're losing more and more data as the months go by. Also, since the majority of this traffic is new (which is awesome), it's very difficult to figure out where that traffic is coming from and how we can be sure to capture that traffic (which is not awesome).

How can we begin to find out how to use "(not provided)" to our advantage?

There are a few things we can do. The easiest thing is to segment the traffic by landing page and see where every "not provided" visit is landing. We can then make some more informed decisions based on what people more than likely searched for to get there. Even better, though, is a nifty little trick we discovered that changes all "(not provided)" keywords into a keyword labeled "np - (landing page)". Check it out:

Keywords are now replaced with landing pages instead. These visits land on the home page.

We no longer have to segment the traffic by landing page. Super handy. From this we can get a quick snapshot of the likely search terms people are using when landing on specific pages. For instance if you have and a whole lot of visits are showing up with your new keyword "np - /why-are-bananas-yellow" you can safely assume that traffic is coming for a search that would make sense to drive them to that page.

We pride ourselves at Click Rain on not only knowing the trends going on "under the hood" of all of the websites we work on, but actually knowing what to do about it and how to find ways to truly figure out what's going on.