Whether you’re familiar with Google analytics or not, it’s hard to believe that the search engine would stop users from seeing what keywords were used to land on their website. Unfortunately, this is exactly what Google did when they decided to encrypt search data when a user was logged into his/her Google account. This is called “Not Provided” data when you’re looking through your Google analytics account. This was about one year ago, and it didn’t only affect “10 percent of analytics” as promised. This leads many SEOs as well as webmasters to wonder: How am I supposed to improve my SEO when I don’t know what keywords 50 or 60 percent of my visitors used to find my site?
Why Google Made the Not Provided Data Change
From a user’s perspective, it seemed that Google’s head was in the right place. The idea was to protect the privacy of users because when you’re logged into your Google account, you will know exactly who this person is. Naturally, this makes users nervous and for those who understand how Google analytics works, it might deter them from being logged into Google at all. Without the encryption, someone could be snooping on exactly what someone is searching for on the web.
However, Google didn’t do everything right. They decided to not encrypt search data if someone is clicking on a paid ad because they didn’t want to upset advertisers. Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land described this as “one of the most disturbing and hypocritical things the company has ever done.” When you really sit back and look at the issue, I think many would agree.
Aside from the paid search loophole, it’s important to understand a few of the different reasons that sites are seeing 50 and 60 percent of data show up as “not provided” instead of the 10 percent that Google promised last October:
- Google+. People are more apt to sign into their Google accounts because the social network is growing more and more popular.
- Firefox. This browser started to use the encrypted search data as the default when users signed in to offer more privacy.
- Safari. For those searching on a mobile Apple phone, the Google search encryption is automatically enacted (this occurred in September of last year).
So what does this all mean in terms of SEO? It means that Google is put in a tight situation. On the one hand, webmasters need this information to help improve search for users. On the other hand, users want their privacy in order to have a better experience. It’s a catch 22, so it’s hard to know what the right move really is and what will happen in the future.
Is Google Analytics Dying In the Eyes of SEOs and Webmasters?
Many assume that Google analytics are only going to get worse as opposed to better because privacy is such a big issue for users (and ultimately users are the most important person involved). However, it seems there are two major reasons that people will not simply stop using Google analytics:
- First, other analytics tools usually get their data from Google. This simply means that you will have the same problem with the majority of tools you would turn to for help.
- Second, Google analytics is free while many other tools are not. Plain and simple, not all small businesses have the budget to afford a third party analytics tool when a free one is so accessible.
Are you a Webmaster bothered by so many “not provided” results or saw a huge number of these results?