After yesterday’s article describing how to analyse your Google visitors in more detail, a couple of readers emailed to ask the same thing, which was: why do so many visitors come from Google with their search term “not provided”? Good question.
If you take a look at the Google traffic where the search term (or “keyword”) used by the visitors was “not provided”, you’ll see that this began last autumn (above). What happened was that Google decided that for privacy and security reasons, for signed-in users of Google services, it would no longer forward user data to the site you’re clicking through to from the search engine. As users, we should probably welcome this move. Most people probably aren’t even aware that if they type “blue widgets” into Google, and click on the first result, the owner of that website is informed that Google has sent them a visitor who has typed “blue widgets” into Google. Now, if you’re signed into a Google service (such as GMail, etc), data on the search you’ve made no longer accompanies you. And the result? In the Google Analytics running on the website you visit, the site owners sees you as a visitor from Google with keyword “not provided”.
Of course, as a website owner, that’s a big loss of information, and an irritating one at that. My own view is that while it’s a shame, we had no right to that information in the first place, so maybe we should be grateful it lasted as long as it did (and that we’re still getting some information, at least). There is one group of website owners who still get full information on their visitors, however: AdWords advertisers. If you’re one (and presumably the only companies not running AdWords campaigns are those with an active Sales Prevention Policy in place), then you’ll have access to data on all of the searches made which resulted in a click on your ads, and if you tie up that data with proper tagging, you can follow it right through to your Google Analytics.