Not Provided, Not a Problem

Published Date: January 22, 2014
Not Provided, Not a Problem

When Google began encrypting most of their organic searches, many webmasters witnessed their “not provided” bucket become the large majority of their organic keywords. People didn’t know what to do. They said SEO was dead (again), they spoke of Google conspiracy theories, and many opinions and suggestions circled the web. Soon after people were explaining their own, often complex ways of figuring out keyword data.


We did our own experiments as well. We focused on data from different search engines, webmaster data, landing pages and more. We quickly came to realize that one report in particular was easy and accurate. Well, sort of. The search queries data in Google Analytics quickly became useful to us. If you follow the path Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries, you will find the necessary data. Please note that if you have not yet synced your Webmaster and Google Analytics account, you will not see this information. Go to this article and follow the necessary steps.

Now, what is important to us is figuring out the non brand and branded traffic. We like to calculate the total non branded searches, and their growth month over month. We use the above path as the base of our information. You are able to view the search queries (there is no not provided bucket) and you can filter out your branded terms to get your overall non branded search query traffic.

The next step is to take a look at at the organic visits (Acquisition>Keywords>Organic). You will notice the number of visits will be higher than the search queries. But why!?!?! The reason for this is that the search queries report only captures around 80-90% of the data, and the remainder that is reported within the organic visits is long tail.

Now, we know that long tail traffic is comprised of a relatively high percentage of non branded terms. So, for each client, we will assume a percentage of the additional clicks as non branded, and ad that to our non branded search queries. This is how we compute the non branded traffic each month. We feel this way utilizes the least estimation, and is more factual considering we are accurately reporting around 85% of the keyword data, and applying a conservative percentage to the remainder.

If you are less interested in becoming as accurate as possible, and you just want to get an overall idea of what your organic keywords look like, just look at the search queries. You will not find the notorious not provided bucket anywhere in sight.

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