What Does “(Not Provided)” Mean on Google Analytics?

If you use Google Analytics to analyze your site’s traffic, then you may have seen “(not provided)” creep up as a top listing in the Keywords section of your Traffic Sources Overview.

But what does that mean exactly?

Well, a few weeks ago Google started encrypting searches if someone is logged into their Google account. So instead of http:// you may see https://, which means your search is encrypted with SSL, or Secure-Socket Layers. This is the same type of encryption you see when you enter your credit card during an online purchase.

Here’s how Google describes it in their official announcement:

When you search from https://www.google.com, websites you visit from our organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won’t receive information about each individual query. They can also receive an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to their site for each of the past 30 days through Google Webmaster Tools.

So that’s me as a searcher of content, but what about me as a creator of content? Well, as someone with a blog, this means that you won’t be able to see how some people are getting to your blog through organic searches.

Danny Sullivan from SearchEngineLand.com brilliantly describes is as ”The Web’s Caller ID.” Google claims that only about 10% of searches will be affected… and if you look at my screenshot above you see I’m just a tad over 10%. But that’s my #1 listing under keywords… 253 visits of which I have no idea how they got to Momcomm. And that pretty much sucks.

If you aren’t analyzing keyword data yet, then you’re missing out. Looking at my top keywords tells me how people come to Momcomm through search engines, if they are staying on my site or bouncing and more. If I see a certain keyword’s getting a high bounce rate but it’s a topic I write about, then I know I need to do some SEO on some blog posts. If I know I want to rank for a certain keyword but it’s showing up really low on my list, then again, gotta do some optimizing.

That’s why as a blogger it sucks that I’m not getting this data. Of course, Google says you can get an aggregated list through Google Webmaster Tools. But as Danny points out “the search data won’t be tied to visitor activity. You’ll be able to tell that someone found your site in various ways, but what they did next — if they converted in some way and so on — won’t be shown.”

Another big fat BOO.

So now that you know what’s going on, what can you do about it? Well, you can see some data if you have that Google Webmaster Tools set up. But I know I’m not going to make a habit of looking there. I’ll probably just mutter under my breath that Google no longer believes their “Don’t Be Evil” mantra and work with the data that I DO have.

Well, now that was a fun, cheerful post wasn’t it?

If you want a super detailed overview of this and its implications to analytics, read the post Google To Begin Encrypting Searches & Outbound Clicks By Default With SSL Search from SearchEngineLand.com. If you just wanna pout, then you can do that too.

What do you think about the change either as a blogger or as someone who uses search engines?

Comments

    • says

      I searched for “what does keyword not provided mean in google analytics” through a “https:/” search from google and you came were the first result. I guess I’m adding to your (not provided) number.

      • Jessica says

        That makes at least two of us! I just started at a new company and encountered the “(none provided) keyword for the first time. It makes up almost 40% of our visits! Frustrating, but thanks for the clear and simple explanation!

  1. says

    I’m not a mom so I’m not sure if I’m allowed to post here (hehe), but I wanted to say thanks for the write up. I was noticing that for my blog, the number 1 keyword phrase was (not provided) and was perplexed until I ended up here.

    I did a quick keyword search and ended up here at your site. Unfortunately you won’t know what I typed in to find your site because I was logged into my google account (I just stay logged in all day because I’m too lazy to log out). Funny stuff (not really).

    Nate
    Nate recently posted..Lumens, Lux, and Micromole Measurements for Plant Growing Lights

  2. says

    Thanks for the info on the (not provided) under keywords. Good research, I had no idea what that meant and this post cleared it up for me. Thanks.

  3. says

    Yeah – this makes me quite upset as well. I rely on my KWs in GA. There have been many KWs that I didn’t know that I was ranked on the first page for – so when I see that I’m getting a little bit of traffic from a certain KW and that is let’s say #9 on the first page…I go after it and try to get it ranked higher. So KWs in Google Analytics is one of the first things I look at when I log on.

    I’m not happy about the “not provided”. But, I think that we all have to agree, GA is still the best tracking tool where you can monitor what type of traffic you are getting.

  4. says

    Very helpful – thanks

    I have the same problem that (not provided) is for one of my highests traffic keywords…

    I can find data in Webmaster but not for the same quarterly period that I usually compare results by

    Not sure what Google are thinking on this!

  5. says

    Thanks so much for the explanation. I noticed a few months ago that my number one search queries were listed as not provided and finally started looking for some information to explain it. I still don’t understand why Google is doing this. And if I read Dannys explanation correctly they are encrypting searches that are done if the user is logged into their Google account. So the number of “not provided” searches could be a lot of different search terms lumped together.

  6. says

    It’s possible that you’re really not losing much information via the hidden keywords. Unless there is something unique about users who log in to Google then visit to your site, the distribution of the hidden searches should be similar to those you can see. In other words, if your top keyword is “mom blog” for the visible keywords, it probably is for the hidden keywords too.

  7. says

    My site is of a restaurant and my keywords are more or less fewer maybe than yours. I guess this is the reason of my “not provided” beeing 30% of the search. Yet top place and higher bounce rate from others, but avarage as a whole. So i guess i will just devide these 30% along the other keywords. :)

    • says

      pfff just realised my stupid argument, it doesnt metter how many keywords i have , i guess my clients just love google :D

      PS sorry for bad english

  8. says

    I thought I was going crazy. I’ve just launched a new site and installed analytics and thought that I had installed the code wrong or something. Not having this keyword data in analytics is a real bugaboo for me and i’m sure many others. Anyways, thanks for clearing this up for me. I learned something new today!
    Mike recently posted..Upcycled Bicycle Wheel Clock by Vyconic

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