Google started to change the way we saw organic search terms being reported in Google Analytics in the autumn of 2011. As the number of ‘secured’ searches grew, the number of organic search queries recorded and displayed in GA as ‘not provided’ began to grow.
A year later, those single digit metrics were now looking like over 50% of all Google’s organic search queries in a Google Analytics report. We could see a trend that wasn’t going to stop. The number of searches ‘logged in’ to Google continued to steadily grow and the rise of Android devices being used for search purposes (on tablets and smart phones) meant to say search query data (as we knew it then) was to be a thing of the past. In April 2014, all Google search query data is now shown as ‘Not Provided’ on Google Analytics; even for the paid queries.
Many of the tools we use to ascertain the volume, frequency, relevancy, seasonal trends and value of keywords were taken from measuring millions of queries pulled from thousands of Google accounts.
The default position for the past year is we have used a hack to record how many ‘Not Provided’ queries land on a specific page. We have played around with many ranking indicators that may qualify which keyword drove traffic to a particular page (Page Title, frequency of Anchor Text, page URL, Keyword Density, H1 Heading Tag frequency), but there hasn’t been a clear cut solution. And just as soon as we thought that we had it sussed, conversion data from paid queries that helped us model what organic search queries may have been, have also disappeared in a puff of ‘privacy’ on Google Analytics.
Some good news
The good news is paid search queries can still be accessed via Google Adwords. This means that paid platforms like Acquisio and Marin shouldn’t have a problem pulling keyword data as they are linked to the back end of your Adwords account. And all those Google Webmaster Tools geeks can still look average at click through data per position (if you can handle the two day lag in retrieving the data) to help them get a far better idea of most technological aspects of crawling and indexing.
What about SEO?
Analytics SEO, a close technology partner of ours, is releasing their new solution for Not Provided at Brighton SEO 2014. We’ll be looking forward to catching up with the Analytics SEO team to find out what their solution is and how it can help all their end users that need this information.
We know we need more solid data or thoughtful modelling to help us help our clients; the current state of affairs is far from ideal. It is in Google’s interests to provide secure searching that needs a paid advertising fee before you can access their data. Our industry is not even 17 years old and is simply growing up; we all need to move with the times, regardless of the technological or business intelligence pain barriers we may go through. No one said it was going to be easy all the time.
So what’s the solution? Watch this space!