SEO used to be more straightforward years ago, then came the “Google not provided” data issue. Keyword research is fundamental to good SEO work, and Google Analytics used to disclose all of the keyword data we needed for our websites. Google Analytics showed us exactly which organic search terms drove traffic to our sites, how much traffic, when and from where in the world, and to what specific pages. When a user entered a search query into Google, the data about that search query used to be collected by Google and it was made available to the website owners who used Google Analytics. That search query data is incredibly valuable to a marketer, and especially an SEO. It is really helpful to know exactly what search terms are driving exactly how much traffic to each our website’s pages.
Sadly, most of that data dried up since October 2011. Users started to see Google not provided data in Google Analytics. Google stopped providing data about users’ search queries only when they were logged into Google. So when a user is logged in to Gmail, YouTube, Google Calendar, Google+, Google Shopping, Google Docs, or any other Google Web service, then Google will no longer provide that data to website owners via Google Analytics. As a result, the amount of keyword data that actually gets provided via Google Analytics has sharply declined over the last several years. For some websites, I’ve seen Google not provided data higher than 90%. So less than 10% of the keyword data was available.
You may not be able to get exact Google “not provided” data for organic search queries, but you can very roughly estimate them. Here are a few ways to estimate them:
Using Google Analytics:
- Select dates to cover a one-year reporting period (or whatever period you want).
- Go to Reporting > Acquisition > Campaigns > Organic Keywords.
- Subtract your site’s number of (not provided) sessions from total sessions – let’s call that number “provided sessions”. So if you have 100,000 sessions but 90,000 are not provided, your provided sessions are 10,000.
- Divide your site’s total sessions by provided sessions. So if you have 100,000 sessions and 10,000 provided sessions, you get 10 – let’s call that the multiplier. So that means that you site gets 10 times more sessions than the number of sessions that are provided.
- Multiply that multiplier number (10 in the case above) by each of the specific keywords actually provided – and that gives you a VERY rough estimate of your overall sessions for each keyword.
Using Google Webmaster Tools
If you really just need to know what terms are driving traffic to specific pages, there’s a complicated way to set a filter for that in Google Analytics. But there’s an easy but less-accurate way to do that using Google Webmaster Tools:
- Go to Google Search Console > Search Traffic > Search Analytics.
- Change the date range to Set Date Range > Custom > change calendar starting date to 3 months ago for the most data.
- Click Pages.
- Click on a specific page below to filter and show data for only the page you are checking out.
- Click Queries. Voila! That shows you the number of clicks for each term that went to that page. But be warned that GWT is famous for its dubious data, so don’t bet the farm on this data. If you want more than clicks, above you can choose Impressions, CTR for click-through-rate, and Position (the average position in search engines – usually a little higher than actual ranking… long story).
Using Internal Site Search
If your website has a search box, this plugin should offer the on-site user search data in the your content management system (such as WordPress). Of course, this will not tell you what terms users searched in Google, but the logic here is that the terms users search for internally on your website often overlap quite a bit with the terms they search in Google. But if you’re looking to discover what they search for to find your site in the first place, this method will surely omit some of those. You’ll discover some of the exact terms searched from Google in the section above on Google Webmaster Tools. While this does not tell us what keywords are Google not provided, these internal search key terms are still quite useful data for connecting the dots between search terms and pages.
Using Google AdWords
If you pay Google for paid search results too, that data is all provided, so that can give you a pretty good insight into what terms drive your organic traffic to the same pages.
AuthorityLabs has a tool referred to as “Now Provided” which claims to give you some of your keywords back. It basically runs an algorithm that computes an estimate by multiplying keyword ranking, key term search volume, and competition data. But of course, this calculation is done without knowing exactly what Google not provided key terms are actually driving traffic to any given page. The tool also suggests keyword opportunities. AuthorityLabs, however, is not free. The minimal Plus plan is now $49 per month. I have no affiliation with AuthorityLabs – it isn’t even one of my favorite rank trackers.
So there are a few fairly basic ways to kind-of sort-of estimate your Google not provided data from Google Analytics. There are many other means suggested on the Web. Some are more complex, others give data related to the page but not the keywords or vice versa. Feel free to hit me up to help clarify or walk you through any of these. I hope that helps!