You’ve probably seen the infamous not provided keyword in Google Analytics. Google Analytics (GA) is a fantastic tool. Period.
It’s incredibly detailed and presents you with all sorts of extremely useful insights into how visitors interact with you. However it’s not without it’s idiosyncrasies and annoyances.
The not provided keyword in Google Analytics is one of those idiosyncrasies that drives most of us nuts. So in the course of this post, I’ll explain:
- What it is.
- The reason we see it so often.
- A technique to work your way around it.
What is the Not Provided Keyword in Google Analytics
Whenever you see the not provided keyword in your Google Analytics account for organic traffic, Google’s saying you’re not allowed to see it!
But it wasn’t always this way.
I began using Google Analytics around 2006… the good old days of SEO! Back then Google Analytics was a goldmine of keyword information. You could see every single keyword resulting in a visit to your domain, alongside the page receiving it.
Back then, Google Analytics literally showed you everything you needed to know about search queries. As a result it was easy to map your positions for each one of them in the search results and see how they performed over time.
I was a very happy online marketer back in those days. You could understand the exact keyword phrases generating visits, and work to bolster the pages ranking for them to increase your position… with ease! It was quite straightforward.
Changes Were Coming
But… this changed back in 2011 when Google implemented a change to Analytics that regulated they keywords it would show you. Google did this in the interests of user privacy and concerns about tracking visitors in a very detailed way.
Initially Google applied this change only to visitors logged into their Google accounts. GA began to conceal search query information for those logged in. For those people, any search made resulting in a site visit no longer passed the keyword to GA. Instead the keyword was substituted with the not provided keyword instead.
All of a sudden, GA users began seeing increasing examples of the not provided keyword in their Google Analytics accounts. And so began a big headache for the SEO community.
When SSL search is employed, Keyword will have the value (not provided).Sourec: Google Analytics
Initially Google advised this would be a minor hindrance to GA users… and to some extent it was. This changed in 2013 when Google extended the incidences of the not provided keyword by applying the rule to ALL google searches. Now it no longer mattered whether or not the user was logged into a Google account.
Almost overnight around 99% of keywords were no longer visible in Google Analytics and replaced by the not provided keyword!
Is There a Way to Unlock the Not Provided Keyword in Google Analytics?
I’ll say upfront right now… there is no way to unlock every single not provided keyword in Google Analytics.
There are subscription-based tools that can make a best guess based upon the historical information they have and connect it to your Google account… but since they are subscription-based, you’ll have to pay.
However, there is a free way to see some of the keywords in Google Analytics, which are normally hidden in all GA reports.
It relies upon you having a Google Search Console account: if you don’t have one, here’s how to create Google Search Console accounts.
1. Connect Your Google Search Console to Your Google Analytics Account
- Sign in to Google Analytics.
- Select the relevant Google Analytics account for the relevant site (if you have more than one).
- Click the Admin option in the bottom right-hand side of the Google Analytics navigation sidebar.
- In the Property column, select Property Settings.
- Look for the Search Console Settings area and if your Search Console has been set up and verified, you will see the URL for your domain.
- In the Search Console section choose the Google Analytics reporting view (or views) you want to connect with Google Search Console.
- Click Save.
Your Google Search Console and Google Analytics accounts should now be connected.
2. Look for Your New Search Console Report in Google Analytics
When you’ve connected your GA property to your Search console you should see a new reporting area in the Acquisition reports in Google Analytics (you may need to refresh your page).
Click the Landing Pages option under the Search Console reports section. This area pulls all the data from your Google Search Console relating to your pages for the chosen period in GA.
After clicking, you’ll see all any landing page that Google Search Console has logged as triggering impressions to your domain. Google Analytics shows alongside them the number of clicks, impressions, click through rate and average position in Google search for each.
On the right-hand side of this report you have the Landing Page column. Each of the landing pages shown in this column are clickable. If you click each one you’ll go to a more detailed report for each page, showing you all keywords for that landing page.
A Few Notes on Google Search Console Keywords
Connecting Google Search Console keywords into GA doesn’t totally fix the not provided keyword issue in Analytics, since Google still doesn’t show you ALL the keywords it knows about. However, you can see the vast majority of them by drilling into the Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Page report… and that’s WAY better than nothing.
You should also note that you’ll only see keyword data from the point you set up your Google Search Console account and verify it.
- The not provided keyword in Google Analytics began appearing in 2011. By 2013 almost all keywords are shown as not provided in Analytics reports.
- Google implemented the not provided keyword in Google Analytics over concerns about user privacy.
- You can still see many of the keywords concealed by not provided in Google Analytics by connecting your GA account to your Google Search Console account.
- You can only see keywords from the point your Search Console account is created and verified.
- Once you’ve connected your verified Search Console account to GA, look in Google Analytics under the Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages report.
- From the Landing Pages report, click each landing page link to drill down to the keywords generating impressions and clicks.
Here endeth the lesson!
Are you using this method to help work around the not provided keyword in Google Analytics? Drop me a comment below and let me know your thoughts.