It’s time for digital marketers and savvy business professionals to evolve… Again. Recently, Google announced that they would encrypt all organic search data and place it in a single data bucket called “(not provided).” While it’s not entirely clear if this move is about user protection or something else, the fact is that we will have a harder time updating our web pages to meet customers’ changing needs.

“We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year,” said a Google spokesperson in an interview published on Search Engine Watch.  “We’re now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in.”

The expectation is to have (not provided) for all organic search data reach 100% in the near future. Now in late September 2013, the website Not Provide Count shows the numbers reaching almost 80%.


The Bad News

With this search information hidden, our marketing data will not show the exact keywords customers used on Google to reach our websites. Since these keywords cannot be identified there is no clear way to figure out which of the many keyword possibilities should be targeted and optimized to garner higher visibility in search.

Specifically, this hidden keyword data makes it difficult to achieve the quick wins we like to see from the low-hanging fruit keywords (e.g. the terms that rest off the page 1 search results but will drive higher traffic if that keyword’s ranking improves).


New Reporting And New KPIs = The “Almost” Good News

Even though (not provided) hides the specific keywords from our analytics tools we can still track organic search on the page level. For example, we’ll know that a Google search sent someone to the “Sunday in Seattle” page on the website but we won’t know if the keywords used were “things to do in Seattle” or “Rick Springfield World Tour”? No longer can we report on top performing keywords that generate traffic or revenue. So short tactical reporting goes out the window.

Where Do We Go From Here?

There will be hard decisions in the near future. Individual keyword performance per page will no longer be a viable KPI. The focus will have to be on organic traffic as a whole. We’ll also have to focus on business results like lead generation and conversions.

In the meantime, while you’re restructuring your KPI’s and preparing your client/boss for what’s ahead, there are ways to hack your Google Analytics. It can get a bit technical but feel free to leave your comments and questions here and I’ll point you in the right direction.


This blog post from the Analytics Guru Avinash Kaushik will lay down the methodology so you can tune your analytics to your specific business’ needs and there is always gold in his comments section.

Hacks & Pre-made Reports:

Check out Econsultancy and Not Provided Kit for of the advice that can be “plugged” into your Google Analytics profiles.

– Mike Feuti