Google’s (Not Provided) Impacting More Than Just SEO Sites

google-not-providedThink that (not provided) is only impacting SEO-related websites? Think again.

The Poynter Institute, a non-profit journalism school that’s well known in media circles, wrote Wednesday about the growing impact that (not provided) is having on publisher websites. Author Steve Myers shared what he found after checking’s analytics:

Keywords were hidden in 29 percent of searches in April. That’s up from 22.5 percent in November, shortly after the change was made. Now “(not provided)” makes up the largest category of search terms, dwarfing the second place term: Poynter. Overall, 6 percent of inbound traffic now comes from a black box.

In the six-plus months since Google began encrypting searches and outbound clicks by default for logged-in users on, (not provided) keyword referrals have grown well beyond the single-digit searches that Google originally said would be affected.

The conventional wisdom has been that it’s a problem that mostly affects SEO- and search industry-related websites — sites that get a lot of traffic from Google via users that are logged in due to using Google Analytics, Gmail, Google AdWords and any number of other Google products that require a login. At the start of the year, though, I shared a few examples of non-tech/non-search sites that were already seeing (not provided) as one of their Top 10 referring keywords only two-and-a-half-months after Google made the change.

With Firefox moving to secure search by default and Google announcing in March that secure search would expand beyond the U.S., it’s nearly certain that (not provided) will become more common and affect more websites well beyond the search and tech industries.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Google: Analytics | Google: Privacy | Google: Web Search | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • netmeg

    My largest B2B ecommerce client; totally unrelated to our industry is seeing 15% of its organic visits coming in on (not provided).   They are (not happy).

  • vicshoup

    (not provided) is growing in percentage, but can’t we still get an idea of search habits by those keywords that are provided? I know we cannot get an accurate count, but we can still identify trends.

  • cryptblade

    I think you are missing the political implications that this has. The Democrat Congress, bewilderingly, wants to sack Google for…I don’t know why (though Google founders, ex-CEO Schmidt, and many C-level execs are Democrats & donors). There is a bizarre belief that Google is a monopoly.

    With this news, however, both sides of the aisle and claim one way or the other. I can imagine SMBs or even large businesses being called to say that such analytics data that they need are being “hijacked” or held “hostage” by Google. Privacy groups could be in favor of Google saying privacy needs to transcend marketers’ needs, etc.

    There is political fodder in this, and could have significant impact for search marketers and even digital marketers, as well as Google.

  • Dana Blankenhorn

    I’m more interested in the next story y’all are already researching, namely the impact of this change on SEO professionals.

  • Mark Higgins

    I am a photographer. My website now has 24.7% of all searches from Not Provided.

  • Rick Omen

    I work in E-Commerce, and already (not provided) is out ranking our #1 term, by more than 2-1. The strange part is that the conversion rate on those are also way below average. It would be really nice to know what they are.

  • Matt McGee

    Thanks for the comment, cryptblade. I think if you were to go back and read some of our previous coverage of (not provided), you’ll find plenty about the privacy implications and their relation to the various govt. inquiries, etc. This story isn’t about that angle. It’s about the widening impact of (not provided) on website owners.

  • Joseph Sanchez

    why are these keywords not provided in the first place?

  • cryptblade

    the smart ones hafta get smarter – the snake oil sales ones either die out or jump to a new “game”

  • cryptblade

    Shhh! that would be too smart and too optimistic to say, brother!

  • Nathan_Safran

    We have research at on the Conductor blog that analyzes 51 million visits and shows 16% of Google traffic is [not provided]. Higher on an industry by industry basis which we break out:

    Nathan Safran
    Director of Research
    Conductor, Inc

  • Stephen Cronin

    On one of my non web focussed sites, Not Provided is at 22% of organic visits. On one of the Government sites I look after it’s at 17%. So it’s fair to say this will be higher than ‘single digits’ across the board.

    If Google+ really takes off amongst the general public, as Google wants it to, then the percentage of people who are logged in when searching is going skyrocket.

  • ArcticLlama

    As a freelance writer, I use the keywords provided in Analytics to not only figure out what my readers are looking for when the end up at my content, but what Google thinks I wrote about, since they are not always one in the same. (Not Provided) is my second largest keyword. I make the assumption that statistically, the distribution across the provided keywords as a percentage is ballpark, but who knows anymore.

    I guess I’ll just have to hope that Google gets better at matching relevance based on something other than whether or not I got the wording right in the title.

  • Finance Gourmet

    My personal finance page is not technical at all. Not Provided is #2 keyword. I use the keyword data to refine what I post. If several people end up on a general information page about IRAs because they are searching for spousal IRAs, for example, I know to either add the info, or to write another article about that so that my readers can get what they need. That’s neither SEO or techie motivation, just customer service.

  • Dhruv Bhagat

    Nice post.

  • bmichael

    Oh the comment spam of you and Arctic Llama (same person?) show you’ll probably be A-OK after this change.

  • Keli E

    I believe that referring keywords will become like keyword research – we don’t have an exact numbers relating to EVERY keyword humans search on… but it’ll give us a good idea on what people are searching on.  We’ll adapt, we always do :) We have to.

    Keli E

  • Itay Brenner

    We are already seeing this on Google Israel (.il). On some of my websites, (not provided) maskes up to 40% of all searches!!

  • Winooski

    Apologies to the rest of the readers and commenters, but cryptblade, I can’t let this go:

    (1) The House of Representatives is currently controlled by the Republican Party. See:

    (2) “Democrat” is a pejorative term for the Democratic Party. See: I have a feeling you knew this already. 

    However, as for the “bizarre belief that Google is a monopoly,” in the strictest sense, you’re correct. It currently is not. However, that determination belies the search market share it wields and the degree to which it can set non-negotiable standards for its users and pricing for its advertisers, who really *can’t* afford to avoid using Google’s services. As imperfect as it might be, Federal scrutiny is called for.

  • NetSpeak Solutions

     I agree with Matt. I also think that it may be time to learn all you can about how Google analytics works, and then go out and spend big bucks on one of the top 3 analytics programs. This is really the only way to get around what they’ve done.

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  • netviper

    I thought google Said it should only be around 12% of searches.. My sites are over 20%. I hate ( not provided).

    I guess google just wants people to use another program besides ga.

  • SilvaDesiree

    Making money online is a dream for almost everyone. As you can do it at your home,  You just need a laptop and an internet connection to work. Last week I got a link, where you can kick a good start [Earn up to 250$ in a day or even more], Look this for further details. ⇛►

  • Nicholas Kinports

    I wonder when Google will roll out paid analytics that remove (not provided)?

  • HughesKyle64

    It’s amazing but some people is making cash on computer, Even 250$ in a day or more. My senior is working at laptop and last week he brought 2700$ to home, Did you tour this link===>>⇛►

  • Clayburn Griffin

    I guess we could always use Bing.

  • fitzgeraldalberto

    like Roger answered I am inspired that a stud<!–put anything in here –>ent can make $4255 in a few weeks on the computer. have you seen this site link===>>⇛► 

  • Seo Jaipur

    Matt, I am New User Of Google Analytics. I am using GA just few months, One Day i am Checked my Traffic Resources Overview in Google Analytic. I am Very surprising, User Highly search which Keyword in Google Analytic Show (not Provided). I Don’t Know What is Reason behind. Please Help me And Solve this Problem and What I Do?

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