Google Analytics (not provided)

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Published March 4, 2013 by Brad Knutson
Google Analytics

Google Analytics is, in my opinion, the best free web traffic analytics tool out there. I would be willing to wager that Google Analytics is installed on over half of the worlds websites. It’s a favorite tool of web developers and SEO’s alike.

Google Analytics allows you to analyze your sites visitors in many different ways, including referral traffic, organic search traffic, paid advertising, social media conversion, visitor interaction, bounce rate, and much more. One of the most important pieces of information is the ability to see what keywords your organic search traffic is entering and clicking on to get to your site. It’s invaluable information for marketing teams and SEO professionals. Knowing what keywords your successful on and what keywords you need to make improvements on is what keeps many people employed in this industry.

In October 2011, Google changed the way it gathers data from search visitors by protecting information for logged in Google users. If your visitor was logged into Google+, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, or any of Googles other products, you no longer get keyword information from them. Instead, you got the dreaded (not provided).

Google Analytics Not Provided

What good is this?!?! I personally find it extremely frustrating…

At first, Google claimed that the number of visitors that would appear as (not provided) would be small, in the “single digit percentages.” Many were skeptical, and over the last year and a half the prediction has proven very wrong. Most sites see well over half of their search traffic appearing as (not provided), with some as high as 80%. This is a huge amount of information lost.

Many marketers and SEOs panicked at first. They had every right to. With this lost information, there jobs just got a lot harder. How are we supposed to extract useful data if Google isn’t providing it to us?

There are a few ways we can gather limited information from this data.

Using Google Webmaster Tools

If you aren’t familiar with Google’s Webmaster tools, it’s another extremely useful tool. You can keep an eye on Google while it indexes you, submit sitemaps, disavow links, and much more. But all that is for another post. I want to focus on the ability to see your search impressions.

Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries

Google Webmaster tools allows you to see the last 3 months of search impressions your site showed up in, while also showing an estimate of the number of clicks you received, and also showing your click-through-rate (CTR). By comparing the data in this table to the organic search table in Google Analytics, you can get a better picture of where your organic search traffic is coming from.

The data in Google Webmaster tools isn’t always 100% accurate, and Google tends to round your numbers to the nearest 10 or 100.

Google Analytics Search Queries

Much like Google Webmaster tools, Google Analytics also has a top-level search impressions table. Click Traffic Sources -> Search Engine Optimization -> Queries. You’ll now be able to see a broad view of your search performance including impressions, clicks, average position, and CTR.

Google Analytics Search Queries

Again, it seems as though Google rounds the results a little, and it’s not as accurate as Google Analytics organic search results once was. Still though, we can combine this information and get a better picture of what is going on.

Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire way of getting the data that we lost to (not provided, but we can at least get a portion of that data back.

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Founder at Inbounderish
Brad Knutson is a Web Developer in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. He has experience working with WordPress and Drupal, and also has an interest in SEO and Inbound Marketing.

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