jigsaw puzzle with one missing piece

interpreting google: the answer to all of your (not provided) woes

September 24, 2019

written by
Andrew Levine

Remember 2011? Adele was rolling in the deep. Bradley Cooper was having his second hangover. And the #1 Google search query leading to your website was all of sudden listed as (not provided). What the heck, Google?! In your noble quest to protect your search users’ privacy, your all-out SSL-encrypted approach to search also began to rob website analytics of an all-too-important datapoint… keyword data.

By time 2013 was up, Adele had won an Oscar, Bradley Cooper had a third hangover, and Google’s keyword data was roughly 90% vanished. No longer would website owners, marketers, and SEOs know precisely which keyword phrases were generating the most organic search click-thrus and website conversions. No longer… until now.

(not provided) notwithstanding.

As you may imagine, keyword data is particularly important to my job as a Search Engine Optimizer. If you’re reading this, I bet it is also important to your job. We know that organic search results are consistently one of the best providers of traffic to our websites. Knowing which words and phrases people queried to lead them to your websites is utterly invaluable. But without access to most of that data, how can we find out what led visitors to our websites? And which ones of those visits led to a conversion? I mean, other than hacking into Google’s database, is it even possible?

Well, duh. Of course it is. Didn’t you read the title of the post? 300FeetOut has the answer. But first, let’s discuss the now traditional ways we’ve been able to cobble together at least some kind of clear picture of the crucial data hidden behind (not provided).

1. gone. but not all gone.

Somehow, some way, not all of Google keyword data is encrypted. It’s closer to 99% encrypted these days. Still, we can look at this tiny sliver of keyword data and make some extrapolations based on it.

2. a conciliatory search console.

As if trying to make up for cloaking our data, Google offers us “Google Search Console”. And it is really useful for lots of webmaster and SEO functions, including XML site map submissions and automatically sending you alerts when something is awry on your website which could lead to a negative impact in Google’s index.

For now, what I want to point out is Search Console’s “Search results” data. This is actually fairly significant in terms of recovering (not provided) data. It’s all here… search queries, clicks, impressions. And you can even import the data to Google Analytics. Sort of. It’s just compartmentalized, not mixing with the rest of the data which Google Analytics serves up. This means – for instance – you cannot measure goal or e-commerce conversions, which is to say that you cannot see how specific queries are converting. That’s a huge component that remains missing.

3. paid search data.

Of course, Google AdWords still provides query data. So, if your site runs paid search, there is a lot of keyword data there that is particularly useful to non-paid search. Chiefly, it allows you to see which keyword phrases generate traffic and which one don’t; and which ones lead to conversions and which ones don’t.

And like Google Search Console, the data from AdWords can be brought into Google Analytics. However, while it isn’t necessarily compartmentalized away from the rest of Google Analytics’ data, its keyword data is only about paid search and not unpaid, organic search. So while it gives you an idea of what people are searching for organically, it isn’t organic data.

the answer: rolling in the deep data.

Yes, these three traditional ways are fairly decent – especially when we combine all of them and analyze your data as a whole. But as mentioned, there isn’t a clean and easy way to do that and there are some serious limitations with each solution individually that don’t go entirely away when combined. In the end, even with these solutions collectively, we still don’t know which specific organic keyword phrases are leading to the most conversions on our websites.

So now are you as frustrated with (not provided) as I am? Do you want to know which keyword phrases are not only generating the most traffic to your site but also which ones are actually converting to leads or sales? Well, 300FeetOut has discovered a solution which can finally pull back that cursed (not provided) curtain to reveal the lion’s share of your organic keyword phrases and their conversion rates.


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