The Rise of (Not Provided)


For the last two years, digital marketers have been battling with the rise of ‘not provided’ within SEO keyword data – it started with Google encrypting the keyword searches from anyone signed into Google, then went to anyone using the Chrome onmi-box, so the black-hole has been growing. 

Over the last couple of weeks, the inevitable and dreaded conclusion to this trend has happened – Google will be encrypting all keyword searches, so marketers will not be able to tell which keywords have driven traffic to your site.  It is worth noting that this affects organic SEO, not PPC where this data is still available.

The announcement came quite suddenly, and initially there was some panic on social media with people supposing that this was the end of the organic SEO world.  After some time to think about this question, I think the answer is an emphatic no.

There are other sources where you can find this information, e.g. Google Webmaster Tools, but you will need to pull off this data one keyword at a time, which is not a realistic alternative for most people.

Also, you could look at the ‘source’ at page level within Google Analytics to see if your SEO campaign is working, which should be something that marketers are already familiar with. 

But what this move from Google does is move the emphasis away from keywords onto content.  Google have long wanted us to focus on the quality of the content and how engaging it is to the user, and this move will shift people’s focus. 

Like any change in digital, it will also drive innovation, which is the positive here.  Other tools will be developed (or current ones improved) to help marketers with this issue, and a cross-community issue like this will drive exciting new solutions – so keep an eye out over the next few weeks for new releases.

We often forget that Google is a commercial organisation and it has the right to add or withdraw services accordingly, note that PPC keyword data is still available for those with the budget.  But the digital marketing community is dynamic and innovative, and alternative solutions will arrive over the next few weeks.  So, this move from Google is not the end of the world, it just encourages us to look at the world from a different angle.   

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