Google Analytics – what can I do about not provided search terms?

In April 2011 Google started to block the users search queries in their own  website tracking software, this meant that website owners and developers like me can no longer look up the search terms people are using to find and visit my website. This restriction is only in place for users who are logged into their Google account but with Google pushing accounts and encouraging us to stay signed in this is only going to become more of an issue. Google estimated that 10% of the keyword searches would be affected and come up with the (not provided) in the results, but looking at the results for this website over the last month 55% of the keywords are (not provided) the Simpsons Creative website faired better with 20%.

Both of these websites are IT related (this one more so) and a possible result of this is more of the people visiting the site (and searching for relevant terms) are IT literate and are more likely to make use of Google full range of services so are more likely to stay signed into their Google account while searching with Google. I know I do as I use Gmail and Google reader regularly as well as my Analytics account so it makes scene for me to stay signed in.

This is somewhat supported by the results of some of the other websites Simpsons Creative look after, a cloths retailer scores 15% a kitchen supplier scores 11% and a commercial property websites score 14% , 7%, 12% and 5%  (Simpsons Creative specialises in commercial property marketing visit the property marking website for more information)

With more and more people staying singed into their Google accounts the percentage of the searches that don’t provide the search terms is only going to go up, faster in some industries then others but it is only a matter of time.

So why is this a problem? This information is very useful for website developers because it lets us tell what information the users are looking for when they visit our websites and in turn lets us focus our content creation efforts on the topics people want to read. This means we can make better use of our time creating content that we know people are interested in reading, it also benefits the users of the website as we will be producing content they they are interested in and with a better focus on the topics being covered the quality of the content would be better.

All of the data collected by the analytics service is anonymous which meant that even if the data was provided even for those signed into their Google accounts website developers would have no way of identifying the individuals from their search data.

Is there anything website owners can do to get back some of this ‘missing’ information? in summary no, there is no way of getting back the detail that we used to get but there is a way of filtering the results so that we can see what page the users are landing on, this will let us make some assumptions about what they were actually searching for – not as good as the full data as we are still guessing what they searched for but it will give us some idea on the type of content users are after.

Looking for keyword search data To do this log into your analytics account and access the organic search data by going Traffic Sources -> Sources -> Search -> Organic

This screen will then display the search terms people have made to find your website in the search, what we will be doing is adding a ‘secondary dimension’ to the results – in other words adding a second filter, this will then let us view the keyword results organised by landing page.

selecting landing page in the analytics results

With this in place we are now able to view the landing page that people came into our site for results when the keyword was not provided.

From this data for this website I can see that the most popular page on my site when the keyword was not provided is the Jquery mobile splash screen page with 20 of the not provided visitors landing on that page.

some more of the results for this website in the last 30 days:

visitors to alex wells website results

Click on the image to view it full size