Recent research is reporting the rise of the amount of traffic and thus keyword data which is falling into Google’s (not provided) bucket appearing within the Google Analytics tool. Keyword data has long since been a critical factor for marketers who focus on understanding how users find and engage with their websites through organic (i.e. non-paid) search traffic and thus work to improve the quality of their website’s experience.
Google’s official blog “Making Search More Secure” in October 2011 announced in an effort to continue to secure the privacy of its users would no longer be passing along information through to a website’s Google Analytics account pertaining to search queries performed from organic search results by users who were logged into a Google account. The security protocol known as a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) was first implemented as the default for Gmail users in January 2010. Google Chrome’s recent enhancements have also made SSL the default for users whether or not signed into Google.
On the flip side Google does not prevent referral keyword data coming to a website from paid search traffic from being reported. Further, website owners through Google Webmaster Tools are able to capture a snapshot of the top 1,000 search queries which drove traffic to their website albeit for only the past 30 days, and only as an aggregate number.
Fast forward to present day and the amount of (not provided) data continues to grow. A recent Optify B2B study reveals that “(not provided)” accounts for almost 40% of organic search referring data. This means for every 1 of 2.5 visits from organic search referring keyword data will no longer be passed through to a website’s Google Analytics. Keep in mind Google is still collecting the data, just not passing it on.
So what does this mean to users and marketers? From a user standpoint online privacy and secured searching continues to be a critical concern. Users want to surf the web with a measure of privacy, (despite the never ending stream of volunteered information offered in Tweets, posts, check-ins and images, not to mention enabled location settings). So perhaps Google’s privacy measures are well placed in making the user experience more secure and in turn keeping users, using Google.
Encrypted search is not exclusive to Google’s free analytics software. Adobe’s subscription based analytics package reports “Keyword Unavailable” for as much as 14% – 20% of its client’s data.
For marketers, whose handicap is likely to continue to rise, with less data to work with, they or their SEOs will have to dive more deeply into the data they do have available (the 60% which is passed along in Google Analytics), core metrics available in Google Analytics (i.e. page views, time on page, sales funnels) as well as to integrate data from other areas such as Webmaster Tools 30 day aggregated data and paid search campaign data.