(not provided): What does it mean?
Back in October 2011, Google announced that they would stop providing the keywords which logged-in users searched for in Google.
If a user is signed into their Google account, any search they perform will be done via Google secure search and will no longer pass the search term referrer data. However, Google will still pass this data on for any clicks on Google paid ads.
The reason behind this decision from Google to withhold search term referrer data stems down to better protection of the users privacy, although still passing the data if you pay for it has caused some controversy!
Growth of (not provided)
This update meant that we started to see (not provided) appearing in our Google analytics reports. Google still records the visitors as being organic but puts all of these secure search keywords into a (not provided) bucket. Unfortunately for webmasters there is no way to work around this, it is how it is. Google however does still provide us with an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to the site through webmaster tools, it’s not perfect, but it can be used a guide to top performing keywords.
Since secure search was implemented we have seen the number of (not provided) increase to around 10-15%.
Looking at the number of unique referring keywords had been a good indicator in the past of your sites performance on search engines, and was used as a KPI regularly. As we see the number of (not provided) searches increasing month-on-month, the total number of unique referring keywords data becomes less relevant.
One positive measurement which has come out of Google (not provided) keyword search terms is that we now have a better understanding of how many users are using personalised search. Although Google can show personalised results to non-logged in users, it is the logged in users who are impacted the most by personalised search. So, by working out the percentage of (not provided) users we can see how many users are having their search results personalised.
We will continue to see the number of (not provided) searches increase at a steady rate. There have been rumours that Firefox are going to be implementing secure search as their default, if this happens expect to see this increase significantly (with Firefox currently holding about 21% share of the browser market in the UK). If Firefox do go ahead with this update, will we see others follow….