The Press Release – A Special Brand of Snake Oil
September 18, 2013
Campaign Development: Do you really need it?
September 24, 2013

#1 Keyword “Not Provided”/”Not Set”? How To Adjust

By Rick Skidmore

Been wondering about the #1 keyword term in your monthly report labeled as “not provided” or “not set”? I get questions about this frequently and these labels mean we don’t get to see the keywords associated with them. Well, I have bad news. Google has prevented this and is now increasing it’s ability to not provide you with even more keyword search terms. I would like to address how to make a simple calculation on how to solve for the “Not Provided” and also some direction on how to minimize the “Not Set” term in your report.



Not Set

First, lets cover the difference of the “not set” and “not provided” in analytics. Not provided is strictly security based or, so Google wants you to think. Not set has to deal with old tracking codes or broken code on your website disabling the ability to track the keywords searched in connection to your analytics.  Many of my clients do not have the “not set” issue if they are using the newer analytics code or have a newer website. If you are getting this code, then jump over to Google’s site and troubleshoot the issue here.

Just to give you a heads up, some of these issues may relate to:

  • Ad Campaigns
  • Ad Groups
  • Ad Keyword
  • Ad Match Types
  • Content Landing Pages
  • Flash Versions
  • Screen Colors
  • Language
  • Out dated script


Not Provided

Now, lets get to the real reason you came… Not Provided.

Back in October 2011, Google started encrypting searches for anyone logged into Google. They labeled this as a security precaution which will protect any one person from being potentially eavesdropped on. Soon after Google launched Chrome’s Incognito and other browsers such as Mozilla and Apple Safari, also provided secure search results. These new browsers will allow encrypted search results even if the user is not signed in.

As of September 2013 Google has launched a more intense effort for providing secure searches. Google has now enabled secure searches on ALL search results.  I am still unclear if this will be effective immediately with all browsers using Google search or only with the current up to date Chrome browser. Either way, you should expect to see more and more of your keyword terms returning “not provided”.

The speculation as to why Google has made the change is indicating either NSA security benefits or a plan to get you to use Google Adwords and spend more money, heck why not both? Here’s the catch, if you are spending with Google’s Adwords, then you will get more info on these “not provided” keywords through your Adwords dashboard. They will not give you the stats on the organic search, but they will on the search terms that lead through your PPC campaigns.


Suggested Solutions (For Limited Time Only) 

A simple solution to calculate which keywords are getting what traffic is based on the percentage the current keywords are taking. For example, if my total keyword search results are 1,000 and my Not Provided is 500 or 50%, then I will use my other keywords to determine which ones are getting these results. Let’s say my top keyword is “oranges” and it has 300 searches, “tangerines” has 100, and “mangos” has 50, and 50 for misc. Looks as follows.



With the calculations, we are simply distributing the Not Provided into percentages and adding them back into the search terms. Note: this is not 100% accurate, but it is a good estimate to calculate the search terms hidden by the not provided results.


Focus On What We Know – Marketing Shift

Let me make it clear, SEO IS NOT DEAD.  SEO is still very relevant and important for any website and searcher, none of this has changed, only the way we track results with specific keywords. With moving to ZERO keyword search traffic data, all marketing agencies and internal marketers are limited on what they are now able to track. We can not kill the beast (Google), but we can focus on what we know and how to improve value to the site visitors.

Due to not being able to see the traffic that is obtained from specific keywords, we need to adjust how we track SEO efforts. The best way to track SEO efforts, we must break it down to the landing pages being optimized. Here are some points to ponder and to use in your marketing strategy and report analysis.

  • Providing SEO services for on-page and off-page information is still necessary for a better user experience.
  • Focus SEO efforts on specific landing pages.
  • Connect the rank improvement with the actual traffic to the landing pages being optimized.
  • Use what we have in analytics to enhance the search traffic for landing pages.
    • Bounce Rate
    • Time on page
    • Increased traffic to landing page
    • Average pages visited for site

To better track and manage SEO efforts this will increase the need for Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Being able to optimize conversions, this will increase the amount of sale or leads to your company, which should be the ultimate goal to begin with.

Additional resources I have come across on “not provided” came from Danny SullivanRand Fiskin, and Thom Craver 

About the Author

Rick is a marketing strategist at Netmark. He has been in marketing since 2009 with a background in construction marketing, food marketing, and event marketing. Rick Graduated with his BS in Business Management and minored in Marketing. His business skills allow him to be both analytical and creative in both business and marketing. Rick has an entrepreneur heart who enjoys serving and working with others.

#1 Keyword “Not Provided”/”Not Set”? How To Adjust