Thursday, September 19, 2013

The sudden rise of the “(Not provided)” keyword!

[After more than a year of silence, this blog is finally getting back to life. This new post has been originally posted on the 18th of September on the Uptimizers blog, the official blog from my own company. This blog will NOT be discontinued. It will remain my own "personal" place - for more personal views or opinions. It will also serve as a relay of some interesting posts published on the Uptimizers site. Thanks to all my faithful readers (if still some :)]

This Wednesday, I came across an interesting site: http://www.notprovidedcount.com/ tweeted by Jacques Warren. The site provides information about the evolution of the (Not provided) keywords in Google Analytics keywords based on data from 60 different UK sites.

A quick reminder first: back in 2011, Google began to restrict the keyword data they sent to websites whenever a visit came from secure Google search pages (i.e. using https protocol). The use of the secured protocol became default whenever a Google search was done by a user who was logged in with his/her Google account. Restricted keywords appears in Google Analytics under the label (not provided), instead of the actual search term.

(Not provided) share increased by half in less than a month
Since its introduction, the share of restricted keywords has been rising steadily. But what really surprised me when discovering the data from NotProvidedCount was the sudden rise over the last four weeks – from 45.92% on the 20th of August to 70.9% on the 17th of September. That’s a 50% relative increase.

Source: www.notprovidedcount.com


Such sudden increase is definitely unusual. So I checked the data from 2013 for some key customers based in Belgium. While my sample does not include 60 sites, it covers mid to high traffic websites from a mix of sector: banking, automotive, telecom, leisure, tourism, energy, sport and insurances. The results are almost the same as the ones from www.notprovidedcount.com. And I didn’t have to tweak the data (I never do that anyway :-)).

Source: www.the-uptimizers.be/en/blog
Google secured search by default in top browsers?
This left me and other peers a bit puzzled. What could be the reason behind such sudden increase? Different hypothesis started to appear but Jacques Warren, again, found a very interesting article on imedia Connection blog. According to the author: searches initiated from the browser bar are now redirected to secured search – even if you are not logged in. The sudden increase especially came from Internet Explorer.

So I checked again my data from one large size Belgian site – from May to today, for the top 4 browsers: IE, Chrome, Firefox & Safari. I trended the (not provided) share for each browser:

Source: www.the-uptimizers.be/en/blog
The share increased for all browsers between 18th of August and 17th of September 2013 but the most impressive increase came from Internet Explorer, it simply doubled! Again, more or less the same results as provided in Roy Bielewicz's article - at least for the Microsoft browser.

If changes were made to default search protocol, Google did not tell anyone yet about it.

So what?
Well, according to NotProvidedCount, based on current growth, the (not provided) share will hit 100% by the 27th of December 2013. More concretely, the organic keyword reports from analytics tools will become less and less useful as the share of restricted keywords will get closer to 100%. It won’t make SEO easier for sure as there will be more guessing (looking at landing pages from the (not provided) keyword visits for example). But nothing we can’t do about it…

What about you? Did you notice same increase? How do you feel about it? Do not hesitate to share your thought and findings.

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4 comments:

  1. Yep, the same for me - middle of the August and (not provided) start to raise quickly - now it's almost doubled the amount from the August...

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  2. I've noticed this myself, didn't think too much about it at first but it seems to be a growing issue as it is hard to tell what has been a success and it leaves me puzzled.

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  3. I am seeing the exact same thing. I had not checked keywords in a few weeks, and was shocked to see nearly 80% of all keywords reported as (no provided). Guess it shows how many people are using the built in search bar rather than going to google.com to initiate their search.

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  4. Dear all. Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience. It has been all over the twittersphere and blogosphere today: it is now officially confirmed by Google that all searches will be made secured by default. So it looks like that the 100% share for the not provided will be reached very soon :-/

    Read more here for example: http://searchengineland.com/post-prism-google-secure-searches-172487

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