Google Analytics Keyword “Not Provided” Workaround

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Anonymous website browsing means it’s harder to track key word searches. This article will show you how to find what keywords visitors search to find your site and the removes impact of the “Not Provided” keyword results in Google Analytics. This workaround will import results from Google Webmaster Tools to Google Analytics.

Inside your Google Analytics you can see which search terms prospects are using to find your website. Acquisition -> Keywords -> Organic.

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However with the rise of anonymous browsing, this means that Google Analytics can no longer track keyword searches as easily and so an increasing number of searches are now being displayed as “(Not provided)”.

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This situation is getting worse month by month as we track the analytics for our website and those of our clients.

A Workaround For Keyword Searches

Although not a perfect replacement, Creative Agency Secrets has found a work-around which can give you a good indication of what search words and phrases your website is showing up for and which are drawing visitors.

It involves Google Webmaster Tools. You have to set this up for your website.

Set up and Verify yourself and your website in Webmaster Tools – generally the easiest way is to do this with your analytics account.

  • Remember your site must be using the asynchronous tracking code.

Select the Google Analytics radio button (which can be found under the “Alternate methods” tab) and click Verify.

Now navigate to Search Traffic in the sidebar menu.

Scroll down below the graph you will see a list of Queries used and the Impressions. The main benefit of this data is you can see the Average Position your site has in search listings for each one (far right column).

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We are going to show you how to send this data to your Google Analytics account but it’s worth noting that there is more accuracy in this screen as Google Analytics rounds the numbers.

Link your accounts: Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools

Open Google Analytics and browse to your website dashboard.

In the side menu go to Search Engine Optimization -> Queries. You will get a message advising you to enable Webmaster Tools.

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Click the button to Set up Webmaster Tools Data sharing at the top of the page.

Leave all the settings it displays as default although you can change the fields if some are incorrect e.g. Industry Category. At the bottom of the page the sub-heading Webmaster Tools Settings click the Edit hyperlink.

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This will bring up a list of site(s) and associated Analytics web properties. Choose your site on the left radio button and Save.

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Click OK to Add association in the next window.

View The Data

On the Admin screen click Reporting in the top menu to return to Google Analytics and go to Acquisition -> Search Engine Optimization -> Queries. You should now see a summary graph and below it the list of keyword queries , impressions, clicks and average position of your website.

For everyday checking, we find the Google Analytics summary data is fine. But for non-rounded data, go into the Webmaster Tools display to get the full picture.

*Note that data is normally 2 days behind on these searches compared to other metrics in Google Analytics.

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Five Years of SEO: The SEO’s nightmare: Not Provided

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Five Years of SEO: The SEO’s nightmare: Not Provided

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Some call it ‘SEO bullying’. Others believe this was truly a measurement of privacy by Google, which is what the official statement said. Fact is that ‘Not provided’ has had a big impact on search, mainly on how SEO’s work, in the past few years.

What is it?

In the ‘old days’ life was good for an SEO when using an analytics tool like Google Analytics. After all, you could go in to your analytics, look for the search section and there was a list of keywords there which helped you understand how people got to your site using Google. The keywords showed what people searched for in Google before reaching your website. Combined with ranking data this helped improve the website and SEO.

Back in 2011 Google started to ‘cut back’ on the keywords provided in Google Analytics and to other analytics tools. Now you could see that people came from search, but the keywords would be highlighted as ‘not provided’.

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Originally Google claimed this was for ‘privacy reasons’, however the SEO community has never really trusted this statement. There are still SEO’s who believe the reasons behind this were either because Google will be selling the data in the future or Google doesn’t want to ‘help’ SEO’s anymore by giving them free data.

When Google rolled this out it claimed it would only be a small percentage of keywords that would become ‘not provided’. However these days the ‘not provided’ keywords goes up to 98% and is expected to reach 100% in the next year.

The response of the Experts

When asked about changes in search in the past years SEO’s all mention the ‘not provided’ as one of the major changes. There also seems to be some sort of ‘acceptance’ around it. SEO’s know it’s not going to change and have to live with it.

That doesn’t mean they like it though. Bastian Grimm thinks it’s a sad move by Google:

“Just sad and still a massive pain to not have them, completely the wrong direction in a sense of “SEO is not a blackbox” – in fact that didn’t help at all.”

Andre Alpar believes the change was given in by money and business reasons:

“The denial of search queries aka “not provided” was definitely not introduced to improve the user experience but rather to defend the market position IMHO. Nonetheless for SEO it amplified the importance of informational and site structure.“

The suggestion that Google one day might be selling the data becomes less likely as time passes by. After all, what are they waiting for if they want to sell it? Or do they just want to move people to the Adwords tools, and thus advertising, by this measurement? Arianne Donoghue doesn’t seem to believe that. She thinks it’s on all Google levels:

“[not provided] – has massively changed how SEOs do their job and this has then filtered through into other areas, e.g. now in PPC.“

A Workaround?

With the keywords gone, what is it that SEO’s do now? Are there alternatives? Of course they still have ‘some’ data to work with, but slowly they are losing that as well. So now SEO’s are looking into other sources to understand the search results better:

Google Adwords data: of course there is the Google Adwords data. Google still (for now) provides information on what people search for. Combined with rankings and visits that can give you some idea of what people are searching for to reach your website.

Pages instead of keywords: instead of looking at the keywords, SEO’s are much more looking at the landing pages: what pages do people land on after search and where do those pages rank on? Based on external data from different type tools, like Semrush for example, you can get close to the actual search terms.

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Google Webmaster tools: there is still data available in Google Webmastertools on the keywords that people use to reach your website. You’ll have to do some math in combination with your analytics, but it is still useful. For however long it lasts…

What is your workaround for the Not Provided problem? Tell us in the comments or tweet:

Be sure to read the other articles in this series:

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Bas van den Beld is a speaker, trainer and online marketing strategist. Bas is the founder of Stateofdigital.com. — You can hire Bas to speak, train or consult.

State of Digital

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