Living in a (not provided) World

So Google have gone 100% (not provided) on us, I’m sure you can’t wait to send your clients their next monthly report, which is going to look something like this…


Until a few weeks ago the Not Provided Count was hovering around the 40-45% mark but things have really started to get out of hand recently especially when I noticed this tweet from Steve Webb.


Google really have declared war on SEO’s in the past couple of years and the PR machine is now pinning the blame on PRISM as the reason to keep the juicy keyword data out of the hands of SEO’s (unless of course you pay for it – privacy eh?). We all know that hiding the keyword data will just make it tougher for SEO projects to get additional budgets by making it harder to show a positive ROI and increase the perceived risk for many business owners.

Don’t forget that this roll-out has occured in the last week of Q3 and some of you might well be thinking it is nothing more than a ploy to increase Adwords sales as we move into the busiest online shopping period of the year.

After all Google does prefer some forms of SEO over others, but their preference isn’t cast along the black/white divide you imagine. It has nothing to do with spam or the integrity of their search results. Google simply prefers ineffective SEO over SEO that can be proven it works. No question about it. They abhor any strategies that allow SEO’s to walk into a business and offer a better ROI than AdWords.

Reliance on Web Ranking Software

Ironically Google have now made SEO’s more reliant on scraped ranking data which goes against their terms of service. As long as I can remember I have been using rank tracking software to help monitor what is going on across a number of keywords for my personal and client sites.

If you haven’t picked a decent rank tracker yet then I recommend AWR, you’ll need some proxies too.

A lot of SEO’s will have already been monitoring their landing pages vs. (not provided) keyword data for the past couple of years but if you haven’t you can setup an advanced filter in Google analytics to help you identify the landing pages.


This is explained in more detail in Dan Barker’s article.

Other Google Analytics Hacks

I’ve also tried out a number of other Google Analytics tricks to help me garner more insight since Google have taken away all my keyword data such as:

Dissecting Search Strings – One of the toughest ways to gain insight into (not provided)  is to analyse the search strings from Google. If you look at the URL you’ll see that it is not the actual URL of the page. Rather it is a redirect URL with a string of parameters and codes attached to the end. This provides Google a ton of information to help them refine and tweak their algorithms.


Setting up Internal Site Search – Internal site search data is, in my  opinion, much more actionable than organic search traffic.  These searchers are telling you exactly what they are looking for — on your website, and can’t find easily…


Examining Information from Paid Campaigns – I’m not suggesting you hand over your credit card to Google but if you have access to the paid search information, or can make friends with the Paid Search team then make sure you do.


Go Advanced in Your Analytics – today we are operating in a complex multi-channel environment, users are exposed to numerous channels before they complete a conversion. Therefore it is important that you can estimate the impact of (not provided) keywords not just in organic search.

Not Provided Kit – Dan Barker has compiled a handful of Google Analytics dashboards and filters to help you understand the impact of (not provided) on your sites.

So until Google offer us a very expensive paid solution for businesses to get their keyword data back I guess we had just better get used to our new world.


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One Response to Living in a (not provided) World

  1. Spook SEO says:

    Great info! Indeed, some stable SEO work patterns have been recently moved and there is a struggle in finding out which are the best alternatives, or yet – finding out the best new systems or work structure to be applied. Thanks for the interesting ideas.

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