Not provided as a keyword is now being seen more often. Use Google Analytics Advanced Segments to show which pages are landed on from 'not provided' & 'not set' visitors
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Not provided keyword - use Advanced Segments for more data

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If you check (and I hope you do) your Google Analytics regularly, you will have noticed a sharp rise in traffic from the keyword (not provided).

I don't like this approach by Google, obfuscating keywords used by people to find your website, but at the end of the day, it is their search engine, and they have provided the tools to at least get back some of the data that has been lost.

Not Provided
To give you an idea of how fast this is taking hold, check out the justweb* "not provided" statistics - these are sourced from the keyword traffic for the first few months of 2012:

  • January: 3.31%
  • February: 3.92%
  • March: 11.62%
  • April: 13.83%
  • May: 13.21%

So, at least at the moment, over 13% of all keyword sourced traffic to justweb* has the visitor's keyword use hidden.

Why is this bad?

Aside from the fact it seems to be getting worse, even though originally Google stated it would only represent a small proportion of traffic, it means that you cannot tell what specific keyword sequence people have used to find your website. Which means, of course, your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is likely to get harder to test and measure.

However, there is a way to at least see where these (not provided) visitors land in your website by using "Advanced Segments" in your Google Analytics.

Advanced Segments

How to set up an Advanced Segment:

  1. Log in to your Google Analytics
  2. Click "Advanced Segments" at the top
  3. Click "+ New Custom Segment"
  4. Name the segment "not provided" or something similar
  5. Make sure the options read: Include, Keyword, Containing, (not provided) (image #1 above)
  6. Click "Save Segment"
  7. Go to Content / Landing Pages
  8. If the Advanced Segment is not already activated, click the Advanced Segment button, then tick the "not provided" custom segment, and click "Apply" (image #2 below)

You will then be able to see what pages your "not provided" visitors landed on, and from that, roughly guess how they found your website.

Not Provided Keyword

Bear in mind that it will still be tough to work out how people discovered your home page because there may be multiple keyword targets on that page, but for your deep links, or internal pages, this is an ideal way to at least get an idea of how people found your website.

For example, in May 2012, taking a random sample of internal pages from justweb*, you can see the following articles/pages were found with the keyword(s) hidden by "not provided". I've also provided the total number of unique visits for each page for a comparison:

  • /television/bikie-wars.html | Keywords: 1168 Not Provided: 56
  • /marketing/billboard-advertising.html | Keywords: 103 Not Provided: 32
  • /public-relations/free-press-release.html | Keywords: 38 Not Provided: 14
  • /support/nokia-e63-keypad-light.html | Keywords: 81 Not Provided: 13
  • /review/drift-hd-review.html | Keywords: 111 Not Provided: 12
  • /review/triumph-thunderbird-exhaust.html | Keywords: 154 Not Provided: 12
  • /business-law/trademark-registration-australia.html | Keywords: 51 Not Provided: 11
  • /law-articles/bikie-laws.html | Keywords: 141 Not Provided: 11

It is quite easy to guess what keywords people used to find these pages - and it also shows the pages themselves are working as far as hitting their targets. Interesting to note the variation in percentages of "not provided" landings for different pages.

For example, /television/bikie-wars.html was roughly 5%, but /marketing/billboard-advertising.html was over 30%.

So, implement the above Advanced Segment and claw back at least some of the information which is now hidden from view.

The same method can be used to show pages which have been landed on, but show up as (not set).

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