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Dealing with Google Analytics Keyword Not Provided

Late last year, Google made a move to encrypt user searches to enhance the security of their users’ data. Although this is great for users, it makes things more difficult for webmasters, because encrypted organic traffic now shows the keyword (not provided) in those instances. Fortunately, there is something you can do to obtain more information from Google Analytics when keywords are not provided.

When users are logged into their Google Accounts and search using Google, all of their searches are encrypted. Google made this change in October of 2011. Matt Cutts (Google search and SEO expert) had reportedly projected the change would only affect a single-digit percentage of searches. However, from November 2011 – January 2012, more than 17% of GeekLad’s organic referrals have come with the keyword not provided, which is quite significant.

It may be that most of the reports of Matt Cutts’ statement was actually in reference to when Google first enabled SSL search, which took place back in May of 2010. I’m sure back then, it was in the single-digit percentage of users, but the more recent change in October for Google Accounts is much more significant. Given the popularity of Google+, there are more users with Google Accounts than ever.

So what can you do to get more info in Google Analytics when people are using encrypted search? All you need to do is link your Google Webmaster Tools account to Google Analytics. Just log into Google Analytics, click the Standard Reporting tab, and in the left sidebar navigate to Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Queries. If you have not yet linked your Webmaster Tools account, you can click the Set up Webmaster Tools data sharing button to link it.

After your Webmaster Tools account is linked, Google Analytics will display statistics on search keywords, search impressions, clicks, average position, click through rates, etc. Granted, this is just the same information already provided by your Google Webmaster Tools account. However, if you were used to reviewing your organic search statistics all within Google Analytics, this process helps restore some normality.

Unfortunately, we will likely never have the sort of detailed statistics on organic search within Google Analytics we once had, but linking the Webmaster Tools data is better than nothing at all.

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