Over the past few years, Google Analytics (and other analytics products) have shown an increased number of inbound organic search traffic where the search keyword shows up as “[Not Provided]“. Vanessa Fox, creator of Google Webmaster Tools explains why:
When someone types words into a search engine, then clicks on a page in the search results, the URL that “refers” the visitor to that page typically includes what the visitor searched for. You can see the referring URL in the site’s server logs, and if you have a Web analytics package installed, it will parse what the visitor searched for from that referring URL and provide it in a handy report.
Just over a year ago, Google stopped including the search term in the referring URL in certain cases. Instead, the referring URL just looked like www.google.com. Web analytics programs didn’t have a way of knowing what the visitor searched for, just that that person came from Google. So Web analytics programs count the visit as Google organic search, but list the search term as “not provided.”
Chrome search keywords soon to begin appearing as [Not Provided]
Earlier this week Google announced that the next version of Chrome will use secure search for those searching from the address bar, resulting in all of those searches beginning to show up with a keyword of [Not Provided].
How much of an impact will that have for your website?
Finding keywords listed as [Not Provided]
While Google Analytics doesn’t show keywords from secure search, they are still available from Webmaster Tools. Also, note that keywords from secure search will continue to show for paid search.
Recent increase in direct visitors?
Another key change Vanessa points out is an increase in the number of direct visitors since September 2012:
Safari in iOS6 begins using Google secure search. Because Google handles secure search differently on mobile devices, this traffic doesn’t show a referrer at all (even that it came from www.google.com), so this traffic shows up in Web analytics programs as direct traffic.
How to stay ahead of to your analytics due to Search Engine changes
Analytics changes like these can make it challenging to accurately identify and leverage actionable trends in your analytics. Blogs like Search Engine Land and Webmaster World can help, but that can be a lot to keep track of if analytics isn’t your primary job function.
Contact us for Analytics Insights and Custom Site Enhancements
If you’d like Beaconfire to help enhance your nonprofit’s understanding of website traffic data, feel free to contact us. We’ve developed deep integration with Google Analytics, Omniture and other analytics tools, including automated cross-domain tracking and a custom GA integration which automatically provides automated tracking of how much money each of your donation forms pulls in. Contact us for assistance in setting that up on your site, or if you’d like help in tracking other custom events on your website, such as slideshow or navigation menu clicks.