[Keyword Not Provided]: A Deeper Look

Late last year our own Jeff MacGurn talked about a change to how Google would report organic keywords in his “Google Introduces New Encryption Process for Organic Search Queries: Results May Vary” post.

Since that time, we at Covario, much like everyone in the search marketing industry, have been monitoring the initial impact to our clients Analytics data. The initial impact of the new encryption process was confirmed by Matt Cutts of Google to be in the single digits, and at first it was. Over the past few months Google has been busy making changes like Google Search + Your World to help grow the number of users logged into their products like Google+, Gmail, and YouTube. While the initial impact from the new encryption process the reality is that the number many saw then and now is actually much higher. Ranges for [not provided] have been documented in the single digits, 7-14%, 9%, +10%, 12%, and even beyond 30%. So what percentage of your Google organic traffic can you expect to show up as [not provided] and what can you do about it?

The answer may be in type of site you have and your target audience. Since late October the Covario team has been watching the [not provided] statistics, and has looked closely at a small sampling of sites for any commonalities or trends. Now this is a small sampling of sites over the holiday period mind you, but it is interesting how quickly we were able to spot some things.

  1. Site Audience Gender – Using the AdWords Dart, Compete, or Quantcast you can get an idea of the audience gender of a particular site. We are seeing websites that skew more towards a male audience have a higher percentage of [not provided]. In some cases the difference is as much as 3x that of a site with a more female audience.
  2. B2B vs. B2C – Sites that are typically targeting businesses are more likely to see the keyword [not provided] as one of the leading keywords driving traffic. B2B sites had the highest percentage of [not provided] keywords with an average of more than 20%.
  3. Single Vertical Sites – A trend we noticed was with single vertical sites tended to be among those with the highest percentage of the [not provided] keyword. An example of this would be a site that focuses in on what would be one aisle of a larger and more diverse retailer.
  4. Up and to the Right – January showed a continued rise with some of the highest numbers for the sites we are watching. Multiple sites now have more than 20% of their keywords showing up as the [not provided] keyword.

So What Can You Do?

  1. Use what data you have. Compare log files, PPC data, your analytics data, in-store data, and channel owners, along with other sites your company owns. Then analyze them in an integrated manner to look for patterns.
  2. Look at your year over year situation. Now that we are into 2012, you should be able to look and compare against 2011 and possibly years prior. Year over year are you seeing similar or expected sales and/or traffic?  When you were ranked X in the past what type of traffic did you see? Are you still ranked at that position and is that page seeing the same organic search traffic?
  3. Most likely you have the functionality on your site that allows users to search your site. Do you track what they put into that search box? If you are not already tracking this data you should be as you wouldn’t believe what you can learn from your very own site search data.
  4. Visit social monitoring sites and social bookmarking sites to research your brand and websites. What keywords are people associating with your brand? This will help you understand if your company’s branding and SEO are resonating with your audience as much as you hope.

Above all, don’t panic if you are seeing a higher percentage of [not provided] keyword traffic coming from Google.  Simply just continue to improve upon what is known and worry less about the unknowns.