Investigating the (not provided) data from Google Analytics

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If you use Google Analytics to track website traffic, you have probably seen (not provided) for the source keywords for your organic traffic — and that number has risen over time.

That category represents the people who searched for you while they were signed into Google (or one of its products such as Gmail, Youtube, etc.) Google calls that a “secure” session, which is encrypted and blocks a website from seeing the keywords people use to search for it.

As of today, Google has switched entirely to secure search, which means even if a user is not signed in, you won’t be able to be see the keywords they used to find you.

Google says it is doing so to protect its users’ privacy — except that data is really not hidden and you only have to work a little harder to find it.

Webmaster Tools

Google’s Webmaster Tools is a free service that allows you to look at your top referring keywords over the past 90 days. The only difference is that you don’t have historical data anymore and you can see your stuff only 90 days in the past. You could download reports and maintain historic data offline, but Google won’t do it for you through Analytics or Webmaster Tools.

AdWords

This is where things get a bit interesting. If you link your Webmaster Tools account in Adwords, your organic search data will start getting recorded in AdWords. To see this data, just select all campaigns and change the “View” under “Dimensions” to “Paid & Organic”. Note that you still won’t see data generated before you linked your Webmaster Tools account in AdWords. However, this data will remain in AdWords well beyond 90 days into the future — unlike in Webmaster Tools.

adwords-ga

This begs the question: what’s next? Google Analytics now seems quite useless in analyzing organic search, so what is the future of that service? Will this mark a shift away from Analytics and more towards Google AdWords?

Our guess is as good as yours. In the meanwhile, we hope these two techniques above will help. If you are an online marketing company helping small business embrace the digital world, you might also want to look at our online reputation and social media management platform.

Image courtesy of Wonderlane