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What Does "Not Provided" or "Secure Search" Mean When Looking at Google Analytics Reports

Google is by far the largest driver of traffic to our website. However, I've noticed in my analytics reports that the largest keyword in the report is showing up as (Not Provided) or (Secure Search) when I look at Google Analytics and even in other analytics tools. What does that mean? How can I see what they typed in?

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Google is Doing Their Best to "Not Be Evil"

So a couple of years ago Google had this great idea to stop tracking what people searched on when they were logged in to a google product, so Gmail, Google+, AdWords, anything Google Related. Well, let me back up a second. Did I say tracking? I meant Google decided that they weren't going to SHARE that information with content providers and webmasters. Instead, anyone that is looking at analytics reports would most likely see "(Not Provided)" or "(Secure Search)" as their top KeyWord for driving traffic to their site.

Now when Google first launched this new feature in October of 2011, they stated that it would affect roughly 10% of traffic to your site, if that. Well, for our site they were kind of close; November of 2011 saw 17.3% of our keyword search traffic as "(Not Provided)." Still a lot of good data, over 80% of our keywords could be tracked, so while a bummer, life goes on. Fast forward just one year though to November 2012, and that percentage was up to 56%, and just last month is now up above 60%.

Google Analytics

Yikes - That's a pretty big increase Google

Oh, additionally, in 2012 Firefox announced that their search pages were going to be "Secure" by default, meaning that even if you weren't logged in to a Google product, your keyword data would not pass through to Google Analytics.

So while this change may be good for the consumer in that website owners can no longer see how you arrived at their site, what you did there, and how they can improve your site, it pretty much takes the wind out of the sails for many eager webmasters and marketers looking to improve their site.

All is not lost however, you can see the top keywords referring traffic to your site through Webmaster tools, however you won't be able to track what they did when they arrived at your site, if they bounced, converted, looked around, anything.

While there are some ways to estimate if people are using branded keywords or not to get to your site, in general, this makes the SEO job a little bit more challenging and requires you to look a little bit deeper in to how your visitors are arriving at your site and what landing pages work best.