A Work Around to SEO “Not Provided” Keywords?

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If this article has caught your eye, I’m assuming you are well aware of the issue SEO faces with Google Analytics ‘Not Providing’ some keyword data. This is a work around that replaces not provided with the page’s title tags, allowing you to report back to your boss, client or colleagues on the impact of SEO.

For those of you who have yet to encounter the joy of ‘(not provided)’, here is a pretty good summary of it.

HOW BIG IS THE PROBLEM?

The Not Provided problem is huge. It’s similar to working with one eye shut; you can’t understand the depths of what is happening. To illustrate, here is a screen shot from a Google Analytics account showing which keywords brought traffic to the site.

The blanked out data is where we have been given the keyword data.

For 1,640 visitors, we have no idea of what they are looking for.

#ThanksGoogle.

For this particular account that makes up 61% of all organic visitors!

This is getting back to the old advertising standard of…

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

John Wanamaker

MARKETING IN 2013

This is 2013, not the 1900’s. There has to be some type of solution or work around for this SEO conundrum.

The fact is, unless you pay to use AdWords, you won’t be able to find out the exact keywords a visitors has used to find your site. Accept it, move on.

If you do use AdWords as a solution, you only get AdWords traffic data.

But what about SEO?

By the way I’d always recommend running both AdWords & SEO. If you turn off Adwords it can have adverse indirect effects on your leads.

For the majority of companies with an online presence, SEO is a key traffic driver. We therefore, needed to find a way round it!

THE SOLUTION WORK AROUND

We will never get that data back. Accept it, and let’s move on together.

The SEO industry has always had to adapt to what the 800 pound Gorilla, known as Google, throws at us. From algorithm changes to personalised search results, we adapt. And we will continue to adapt as long as business can be generated from SEO traffic.

The work around came from a post on Google Plus by Deric Loh, definitely worth following him!

As a result, we have been able to replace (not provided) data with detailed information about the page a customer landed on. We have found the best implementation of this solution is to replace (not provided) with the meta title tag of the page they landed on.

Doing this gives you a clear indication what they were looking for, as you should have well defined page title tags.

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

In Google Analytics, instead of getting just (not provided) if the keyword isn’t known, you’ll get…

The ‘np-‘ is just a prefix for ‘not provided’, so you can pick out where the data has been provided. The title tag of the page they landed on is inserted after it. Due to privacy policy of Google Analytics I can’t show you the exact data, but hopefully from this you get the idea.

HOW GOOD IS THE SOLUTION WORK AROUND?

It’s not perfect, but it gives you more data than just not provided. Think of it as the difference between a colleague who always answers ‘don’t know’ and someone who says, ‘well you could try this or this’.

LIMITATIONS

Your home page will get a lot of traffic and for a huge variety of keywords, therefore the title tag data won’t be the greatest insight. You’ll also be found for keywords you never thought you’d rank for. However if it’s significant you’ll see some keyword data come through, so you’ll get a good idea.

You also have to make sure your pages and therefore title tags are targeted towards specific topics and keywords. However let’s face it if you’re not doing that you’ll have pretty limited SEO results.

A STEP BY STEP GUIDE

What you need:

1. Organic Traffic!

2. A Google Analytics account with admin access (very important)

3. Website with unique title tags

4. A week to a month’s waiting period (depends on traffic volumes)

Step 1. – Login to Google Analytics using the admin access & select admin.

You’ll know if you have admin access, because when you select admin you’ll be able to see a button called +New profile, highlighted below…

We are going to setup a New Profile in Google Analytics. We need to do this, as we are going to overwrite some data in Google Analytics. If you haven’t done this before, don’t worry, that’s why we are setting up a new profile. This avoids messing up your main account.

Step 2 – Create A new Profile

You guessed it, just click +New Profile. Select “Website” and give it a meaning full name, ideally with Not Provided in. Now select your preferred time zone. Click Create Profile. We’re doing well, nearly there.

Step 3 – Setup a Filter

From the tabs across the top click “Filter” and “+ New Filter”.

Now put in the following settings, not the dots in some fields.

Hit save and you’re done!

Step 4 – Wait

Because of the technique we have used, we’ll be collecting new data. This means we can’t apply this filter to previous data, sorry. Depending on how much traffic you get, you may have to wait a week or a month before you have enough data.

In the meantime, go produce some good content for your site that will earn you some links. Hey come on! How could I do a post on SEO and not get the buzz word of ‘content’ in there?

Step 5 – Review

Have you waited a week or a month yet? If so go back into Google Analytics and select the new profile you created a week or a month ago. It will be listed under the main account. Go to Organic traffic keyword report, as you would normally, and there you should have some more insightful data and how your SEO efforts have helped increase traffic, sales or enquiries.

OTHER SOLUTIONS TO NOT PROVIDED

The SEO community being as giving and open as it is, has also come up with some other work around you may want to try which could suit your needs if this technique doesn’t. I recommend reading the following…

Cyrus Shepard 7 Best SEO Tips for (not provided) Keywords

Adam Audette 3 Proposed Solutions for Regaining lost SEO Query Data

HOW DO YOU GET ROUND NOT PROVIDED?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below on how you’ve tackled the Not Provided issue.

Reminder – If you found this article helpful, please feel free to ‘tip’ the author with a share on your preferred social network. Thanks!

Iain Calvert

General Manager

Iain came to Reload after working as the digital strategy manager for Billabong over in the UK. With over 8 years of experience in search marketing and ecommerce, Iain now heads up SEO strategy at Reload Media. He is charged with ensuring the most effective white hat, best practice SEO techniques are being utilised and implemented by the Reload SEO team. Iain also consults on the strategic direction on a range of SEO clients in order to cohesively integrate their SEO strategies into their larger marketing activities.