Tracking your organic search referrals will become much more challenging with Google’s latest move. Following the public uproar caused by the overnight increase to almost 100% of “Not Provided” Google traffic, the search engine giant confirmed they are moving towards implementing secure search not just for logged in users, but for everyone.
Increasing Trend to Reach 100% Soon
Over the past two years, the number of “not provided” organic search referrals on Google Analytics has increased consistently. This began in 2011, when Google began to categorize all searches coming from secure search pages under “not provided.” This has put a significant margin on tracking the traffic brought by different keywords, making tracking more inaccurate.
The tracking website NotProvided.com shows the consistent upward trend, with the latter end showing the sudden spike from August to September. The tool also shows the live percentage of (not provided) results in Analytics, and their estimate as to when it will hit 100% given the increase rate over the past two years:
Reasons for Encrypting Search
There are two possible reasons the industry is looking at as the motivating factors behind Google making this drastic move:
Post-PRISM Security Move
One of the two reasons that can push Google into making this move has something to do with the recent US National Security Agency and PRISM issue. It wasn’t too long ago that Google was accused, along with other big industry names like Microsoft and Facebook, of providing search data through the NSA’s PRISM spying program. The search encryption process may be part of their campaign against this accusation.
Google has already made other moves in light of this issue. Last June, they created a petition challenging the First Amendment, stating they want to move towards becoming more transparent to users. In light of this, they petitioned that all requests for data be revealed to the public, including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests. Since the issue, they have also increasingly encrypted their search data, which explains the rising trend in “not provided” results.
Pushing for Ad Sales
What has caused uproar among webmasters is the possibility that Google is moving towards encrypting search completely to boost their ad sales. The information withheld when you get the (not provided) result is revealed only to customers with ad campaigns on Google AdWords.
The system works this way: publishers can see the withheld search terms in Google Webmaster Tools, but there are 2 conditions:
1. You can only see the top 2,000 each day, and
2. Webmaster Tools only stores information dating back to 90 days (this is slated to increase to one year in the future according to Google).
Once you exceed the 90-day limit, the information you were not able to retrieve will be lost forever. But with Google AdWords, you can store this information as long as you like, as long as you have ads running on the system.
What It Means for Our Clients
While Google Analytics remains one of the most widely used tools, you will need to find other solutions to make up for the data that Google is slowly encrypting for everyone except AdWords users. One such solution is our reporting dashboard. We collect data from Google and other sources to give you the most accurate information about your organic search referrals along with other comprehensive tracked data. Our clients will continue to receive the most accurate reports and campaign information. This allows you to make educated decisions on how to proceed with your online marketing and SEO campaigns.
Talk to us today and we’ll be glad to explain how we bridge the “not provided” gap.