Keywords “Not Provided:” What Encrypted Search Means for Your Marketing Analytics

One of the many ways that marketing analytics can help you develop a smart SEO plan is by telling you which keywords bring the most visitors to your site, and more specifically which keywords bring in the customers who are the most engaged in your site. If you’ve looked at your keywords report in Analytics recently (and you should!) you’ve probably noticed a larger than usual number of visits entered as (not provided) and may have wondered what that means. Last month Google began automatically encrypting searches from people that are logged into their Google accounts. According to Google’s blog post on October 18th, this means that “When a signed in user visits your site from an organic Google search, all web analytics services, including Google Analytics, will continue to recognize the visit as Google “organic” search, but will no longer report the query terms that the user searched on to reach your site.”

Google purports to have done this to protect the privacy of customized searches. However, they left a very interesting loophole. Keywords and other specific information will still be provided for users who visit your site through paid ads “to enable advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present to you,” so your Google pay per click management campaign will be unaffected. This has led to claims of hypocrisy and other backlash from the SEO and Analytics community.

Google’s Webmaster Tools still offer an aggregated list of the top search queries for your site. This won’t tell you the conversion value of particular keywords, but it will at least tell you the top 1,000 search terms bringing traffic to your site. For their part, Google claims that the signed in users whose searches will now be encrypted account for less than 10% of traffic for most sites. So far for our site that claim has been accurate as the percentage of traffic reported as “not provided” is well below 10%. This number will vary quite a bit depending on a site’s audience. Some sites have reported percentages as high as 20%. Have you seen this traffic for your site? Has it been a significant percentage? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.