• Keesjan Deelstra

    If Google is serious about my privacy they would block my Adwords clicks too. But they are serious about there stack holders. We see 80-90% not provided in The Netherlands, Europe too.

  • Rick

    The only place I am not seeing this is google/ig.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/laurelmiltner Laurel Miltner

    My perspective: Google is limiting site owners’/marketers’/etc. insight into search terms because the keywords themselves are going to become less and less important.

    Think how much your own search behavior has changed over the years, now that you understand how sophisticated the algorithms have become. First this was simply addressed as the long tail. But today, with inputs including: your personal search history, your online behavior (e.g. pages authored, activity on G+, Google offers interests…), the activities and behavior of your known connections, your location, the device you’re currently using, and more, “SEO” is about so much more than keywords.

    Imagine you own a boutique shop for high-end pet toys, treats and accessories. In the past, you’d want to own results for terms like “dog toys,” “cat treats” and the like, and have a lot of people immediately abandon the page who just wanted some Milk Bones. But now, Google can connect your shop with the affluent consumer who treats his dog like a child. Or the busy businesswoman who likes to buy her cat treats when she’s on the road, and happens to be a few blocks away. Sure, getting to this exact point may be a ways off, but I don’t think it’s too far.

    What it boils down to is creating the content that will resonate specifically for a targeted audience that needs what you have to offer, and Google having the intelligence to make those connections using everything it knows about your company/offering and the person who might be looking for it.

  • Jordan Graf

    No referral keywords = no site search. If Google doesn’t want to give me keywords then they can’t have my site search traffic either. I’m sure Bing would be happy to have it.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Barry, the headline says this happened “Post-PRISM,” and it did.

    The story doesn’t say Google itself says it made this sudden move because of PRISM. But that’s one of two leading reasons why it might have do so, out of the blue like this. It fits in with other moves it has made, including encryption between data centers.

    You’d have to be pretty dumb to ignore this possibility as a reason why Google will claim doing this. Note the claim part.

    Google does claim it has done this to increase privacy, so if the whole PRISM thing is under your skin, because I gather you think I’m making excuses for Google, change the headline to “To Increase Privacy, Google Confirms Quietly Moving To Make All Searches Secure, Except For Ad Clicks.”

    That make you happier? Because that’s precisely what Google does claim. And I’m guessing it doesn’t, because your view would be that this is all about actually pushing ads and little to do with privacy protection. And dang it, why doesn’t Danny call this point out?

    Stop me if I’m wrong on my assumptions, of course, but that seems to be where you’re at. And that’s a pretty strange attitude to have, if you’ve actually read the things I’ve written constantly about this.

    So here’s some history. When it was released, this was my initial story:


    “The new referrer blocking change doesn’t just discriminate against the SEO side of the search marketing family. It also sends a terrible signal to consumers. It says that referrer data is important enough to protect, but not important enough when advertiser interests are at stake.”

    That and elsewhere highlights the hypocrisy of what Google has been doing. You can’t claim you’re doing something for privacy and then leave in privacy loopholes for your advertisers.

    A few days later, here’s the headline of my follow-up post:

    Google Puts A Price On Privacy

    I struggling to understand how that feeds into the voluntary PR spin machine you allege. The column goes deep into the hypocrisy, including stops along the way with anti-trust issues.

    A year later, my Dark Google story picked it all up again:

    And earlier this month, I wrote this:

    Google’s Plan To Withhold Search Data & Create New Advertisers

    We’re the only major publication I know of to question why Google suddenly made archiving this data possible in its ad tool but not its publisher tool, which fits well in with the whole “this is all for ads” view that some have had.

    Oh, and watch the video where I’m grilling Matt Cutts over limiting the data at our SMX Advanced conference. It’s in that story, too.

    For good measure, I made sure our Marketing Land audience heard about it, as well:

    Google Puts A Price On Privacy — Again

    I am a serious technology journalist who understand how and why Google will pitch stories. So let me spell it out for you.

    Google has repeatedly pitched this as improving privacy. And major tech blogs gobble that up. And any complaining by publishers? Google knows they’ll be dismissed as some SEO crackpots.

    No one outside the SEO space cares the data is being taken away, Barry. They don’t care. If they did, we wouldn’t have just see this change.

    If you think yet another headline like “Greedy Google Takes SEO Data Away” is going to change anything, Google PR is having a nice little laugh over that. That goes right to plan.

    What Google cares about is appearing as if it is protecting privacy. And it is not. It is not protecting privacy when it leave deliberate loopholes in that privacy protection for advertisers.

    That’s why the headline also talks about the ad clicks loophole, something you entirely gloss over. The story itself also repeatedly talks about how PRISM may be a convenient excuse for Google to trot out to cover for making a move really meant to push ad sales.

    I already explained the ad sales issue earlier this month. Outside the SEO space, that really didn’t register. So pushing only on that doesn’t bring in the outside critics that the SEOs and publisher really need, to cause Google to reconsider its hypocrisy.

    Talking about PRISM does that. Talking about how Google may be doing this to spin it’s fighting the NSA but really doing it to push ad sales may do that.

    It’s a point lost on you, clearly. That’s too bad. Because you ought to know by now that Google is unlikely to change things just because a bunch of SEOs complain about it.

    I honestly hope that helps you understand why I’m talking about PRISM in all of this. It is relevant — and mostly likely relevant because it was the convenient cover Google may use to try and justify the latest pullback, and a cover that doesn’t hold up if you look at the privacy loopholes.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Technically, yes. The point is, clicks on ads send the keywords in the clear. Clicks on organic listings have those withheld. They’re withheld supposedly because the terms are super-sensitive. But then, ad clicks could be that way, too. So that’s the first loophole. The other reason is the eavesdropping possibility.

  • Maurice Walshe

    as sir Humphrey would say say why let a perfectly good crisis go to waste

  • Tracy Vides

    We have a new savior in Google – will they huff and puff and blow the big bad NSA away? Google seems to have taken inspiration from here: http://www.workzone.com/how-to-avoid-getting-caught-up-in-prism-infographic/

  • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

    You didn’t use ‘For privacy’ in your headline, you used ‘Post-PRISM’. I do wonder why, though, because by your own admission this is an incredibly frail excuse for Google to use. So why did you use it, if there is literally zero evidence pointing to Google using that as an excuse for going 100% (not provided)?

    PRISM is not relevant to this at all, in any way shape or form, and your insistence that it is, is not only shoddy journalism, it is doing a disservice to your readers.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Post-PRISM is privacy. And there is not zero evidence this might be the reason for the renewed push. As the article explains, Google’s been fighting against the PRISM accusations in a variety of ways. There’s just as much evidence that Google might be using this as their excuse to ramp up the withholding as there is that this was all done for ad reasons.

    It’s in the headline, because (again), non-SEOs are likely to take an interest in the story for it being there. And (again), it’s the non-SEOs who are likely to cause Google to make any change.

    Google isn’t going to change because Barry Adams is hopping mad. Google isn’t to change just because I write a story saying “SEOs Are Hopping Mad, Google Takes Data Away From Them Again.” Google PR clearly has demonstrated over the years now that on this issue, it doesn’t care about any black-eye it takes in the SEO space. The SEO crowd is written off.

    Google does care, however, it if looks like people believe this has been done for ad reasons — which is the story I wrote earlier this month, the story you seem happy to gloss over in your “Danny loves Google mindset.” No one else wrote that Barry. No one else made that connection. Every other story I read was just “Wow, Google lets you import organic keywords into AdWords, cool!”

    Unfortunately, despite writing that, it really didn’t get picked up by the broader tech space. Part was bad timing with the iPhone news coming out. Part might be that sadly, the broader tech blogs don’t get this stuff. It’s still complicated. And if they do care, and call Google PR, they might get a “Oh, it’s just some crazy SEO nonsense” and that’s dismissed.

    Google also cares if people believe it is not providing good privacy. I’ve already covered the privacy loophole aspect before, several times, — and again, sadly, no one outside the SEO space seems to care. Google seems to have been successful with its “Hey, a 90% improvement is great” pitch.

    So why PRISM? Because PRISM is privacy, a fresh privacy angle, and there’s huge interest outside the SEO space about the PRISM accusations. So someone may see PRISM there, think hmm, I’ll read that and discover (if they don’t get this already from the headline), “Wait, Google’s doing this to protect privacy supposedly but then drops those protections for its advertisers?”

    I’m at a loss as to how you don’t understand these things, other than you seem to be in a mindset that there is absolutely nothing I can write that won’t be pro-Google in your mind.

    If you really want to see some equity in what Google is doing to SEOs but not to its advertisers, wise-up. Stop thinking “Oh, Danny wrote about PRISM as an excuse” and understand what it really is, a renewed look at the hypocrisy.”

    You shouldn’t be arguing, “This isn’t about privacy.” You should be arguing, “If this is about privacy, why’s Google allowing data leaks to its advertisers.”

    Maybe then, eventually, some publications outside the SEO space will wake up to the two year doze they’ve had and pick up the hypocrisy that we’ve been covering all along.

    They aren’t going to pick up, “SEOs are mad,” I can tell that. Sorry, but they aren’t.

  • David N

    So how can it be a “good thing for users” to BLOCK the search term in GA and SHOW the search term in Webmaster Tools? The same person is likely viewing the search term in both places! What is gained?

    Makes no sense…

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    No, it doesn’t. That’s one of the big loopholes in the argument that the terms themselves are “private.”

  • http://www.cormacscanlan.com/ Cormac Scanlan

    This is something I have had concerns about for a while, particularly with respect to it’s effects on Google Analytics data. With the amount of (not provided) data changing so rapidly, it makes it very difficult to infer any kind of accurate trend or year on year comparisons for businesses relying on GA, due to the way new sessions are measured (not provided very much skews this). More on that side of things in this article I wrote a month or so ago, if you’re interested:


    More generally, it seems strange that Google have overlooked quite how much of a problem (not provided) is, and I really hope someone there is seeing the bigger picture.

    If you do hear back from Google and would be happy to raise the GA implications, I’d be very interested in hearing what they have to say on it. :)

    Great article, keep up the good work :)


  • Matt O’Toole

    Our research on just under 6,000 sites suggests it’s not quite as bad as 70% right now on average (~58%), but it’s clearly head that way – http://www.analyticsseo.com/100-percent-keyword-not-provided

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Yes, the loss of trend data to me, is most painful. I’ve repeatedly asked Google to extend the time period the data can be stored in Google Webmaster Tools. It did recently promise to go out to a year. I think it should go back as far as they have it.

  • http://cory-howell.com/ Cory Howell

    What good are industry-wide secure servers, when there’s already a way to view that data? According to this article, that encryption has already been comprimised: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2013/09/yes-nsa-hacked-encryption-you-have-defense/69102/

    This whole exercise is Google seeking more $$. There’s no other excuse for not passing the data to analytics for “just” natural search traffic.

  • Brian Hughes

    Just another example of big business stepping on small businesses.

  • Jim MacKay

    Is everyone seeing the same effect with SLL (HTTPS) pages?

  • http://www.cormacscanlan.com/ Cormac Scanlan

    Completely agree with you on that.

    Whilst we struggle to make the best trend analysis we can with GA data — with the (not provided) caveats always in mind — it certainly doesn’t help that WMT only provides 90 days (preventing any kind of year-on-year cross-referencing).

    When you consider the amount of data stored and instantly accessible via GA, it would seem (to me at least) that the reason for WMTs 90 day limit is some sort of policy decision, not a technical limitation. Coupled with the decision to move Panda away from an iterative release schedule, Google aren’t exactly making things easy these days!

    Don’t get me wrong it’d be boring if it was too easy, but I’m sure we’d all prefer to spend less time worrying about incomplete and inconsistent data, and more time creating the kind of bold, engaging and shareable content both Google and our audience really love! :)

  • http://www.davidnrothwell.com/ David Rothwell

    Keyword data has commercial value. Just like no more free clicks from Merchant Center, Google is monetising another of its assets. No surprise there. Google knows the value of a click better than any other organisation on the planet.

  • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

    Whoa. I point out how PRISM is entirely irrelevant to this issue (and nothing you have stated contradicts that), and you go in to a massive rant about how “SEOs are mad at Google” would not make a good headline. Defensive much?

    Seriously, Danny, you should learn to take criticism as intended. Bottom line is that how you phrased that headline is sloppy and has nothing to do with proper journalism, and everything with you trying to frame this debate in a certain way that is disconnected from the facts.

    I’m calling you out on that, and you have yet to provide anything resembling an adequate response to that.

  • Xander

    whatever they do.. it will be to make some money in the end. Go Google go.. it’s a bussiness you know. Would you be happy if they would say: We are planning to use more SSL to get more money and to block NSA in the proces?

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I have explained it Barry. You clearly don’t understand that connection, so there’s nothing really more I can say. Sorry you don’t get it.

  • Jordan Denny
  • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

    That makes two of us, Danny.

  • medway808

    Has nothing to do with the analytics package used, the data is stripped upstream to that.

  • Federico Munoa

    Well … they are still presenting the referral data in Adwords and I bet they are still tracking organic referral keywords internally. Just wanted to know if they were showing more data to Premium users that’s all. Thanks for the clarification though.

  • medway808

    Yes, but those ads are on different real estate. It’s separate data channels.

    And sure, they can track internally.

    The problem is the referring url on organic clicks doesn’t contain the data to pass to any external source. So nothing past that click can obtain the keyword info.

  • hilarityensues1

    Hyperbole sure is fun.

  • hilarityensues1

    I cannot express enough how little people care.

  • hilarityensues1

    Out of curiosity, do you have a grab bag of vague sentiments you like to throw out there for approval and upvotes? This is the exact kind of garbage platitude that’s poisoning this industry.

  • Jay

    Well… This stinks. Couple thoughts: I believe Raven has a tool which archives your WMT rankings, so you don’t have to do it manually. Additionally, it’s pretty wack to have to rely on that data given that it’s inaccurate. Ian Lurie at Portent had a really nice post measuring just how inaccurate WMT data is: http://www.portent.com/blog/analytics/google-webmaster-tools-query-data-is-worthless.htm

  • Ryan Warren

    I am new to SEO, but I think the main reason they’re doing this is to eventually update they’re privacy policy, and then turn back around and sell that data, to now clamoring SEO’s. SEO’s have been making money off of their free data for years, and now Googles going to get that money back (from ad rev and eventually SEOs). I was actually surprised when I started using keyword tool and realized its its full value.
    They’ll want to start selling it (under a different guise maybe) because there are still ways to figure stuff out pretty good without that prime data. But the prime data will make people who pay better than people who don’t, so if your competitor has it, you’re going to want it too right? When and if they bring it back, it won’t be the full gammut and certainly won’t be for cheap.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Yes. it’s in the story above.

  • http://www.top10seotips.com/seo_expert.htm SEO Expert Steve Wiideman

    I’m sorry, which users were complaining about Google knowing what they search for and actually caring about marketers knowing which keyword attracted them to the website?

    I guess I missed that part.

    Dear website, I see you are using Google Analytics to better understand what your users are looking for. Despite the fact that you do NOT have my IP in Google Analytics, I fear that you may know who I am and share with the world that I searched for an iPad cover before entering your website. This makes me feel vulnerable and violated. I feel compelled to write a letter to Google that you knowing that I searched for “iPad cover” makes me feel this way. I sincerely hope that they will take away your ability to see my keyword searches in the future and because it will make me continue to like Google more than Bing.

    –Said no person, ever.

  • Johan Hedin

    GA is becoming more and more useless.

  • http://www.mounsey.co.uk/?r=disqus John

    Interesting (and naturally concerning) news. Thanks for sharing it with us. Unless I have missed it, I have one key question:

    I note that AdWords clicks will still record the valuable Keywords data in question here (which in turn can then be linked with Google Analytics).

    However, without an AdWords Account, will Keywords data be revealed on Google Analytics Profiles / Dashboard tools (as has been the case). – Sorry if I missed this somewhere.


  • http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=109081727 Wesley van der Hoop

    Unbelievable. How does Google still dare to claim they’re an ‘user-centric’ company? SEO’s use that data to actually improve the experience for the users.

    Given that Google still hands out this information to companies paying for ads, makes Google’s statement to ‘do this for the user’ even more ridiculous.

    It’s all about the money. And that’s actually ok, but at least be honest about it.

  • Andrew Kirkcaldy

    I have a theory as to why Google have done this.

    If you look at quality score in Adwords oneof the measures they look at is landing page quality.

    Up to now that has mainly focused on keyword relevancy of the landing page, then they integrated Google Analytics into Adwords to understand the user behaviour after a person clicks such as bounce rate, page view/ session, etc.

    But if you think about how sophisticated the SEO algorithm is why wouldn’t they use this to determine relevancy and landing page quality. If the page ranks organically in a high position then you must have had to optimise the page to the relevant search terms, you will need links that page rank highly plus it needs to be from an authoritative site.

    All the Adwords team need to do is feed in the ranking & CTR info into adwords and there done as the algorithm is constantly being updated. The quality score system will just look at the results..

    If this is true this will mean that SEO will have a direct impact on the adwords CPC.

  • http://www.xn--miljbil-d1a.info/ Jimmy Wirsborg

    Well I can confirm that this seem to have hit Sweden as well during the weekend. Friday 20:th is the last time I see keyword data from Google on my private sites.

  • http://www.ubermarketing.co.uk/ Shell Robshaw-Bryan

    ‘Not provided’ keywords, as far as I am aware, are available through Google Analytics Premium. I assume all keywords will continue to be available through their premium service. Does anyone know if this is the case?

  • medway808

    You can see keywords in WMT, but you can’t track a single keyword search to a conversion. You just get an overview of the searchers for that day.

  • filmizle

    why Google make so many changes in this months?

  • http://www.webfuel.ca/ Helen Faber

    Upward trend of “(not provided)” for our client’s in Canada as well. Some over 90%.

  • Søren Jensen

    It’s in Denmark as well….

  • Doc Sheldon

    There’s one thing that a lot of people seem to be missing, that lends some credence to Google’s stated motivation of protecting users’ security:

    Before this change, we could see the keyword term and tie it to a user’s IP, and the more nefarious folks out there could harvest that information. I don’t believe the NP searches in AdWords allow that. So the argument that AdWords subscribers were getting information that others couldn’t is only true for keywords.

    Granted, KW visibility is all that most of us are interested in, but “most” doesn’t plug the hole. Since the inception of NP, the KW data provided to active AdWords accounts lacked that personally identifiable information – that is still the case. It has simply spread now to the rest of us.

    Will this probably have the effect of pushing more people to AdWords? I imagine so – at least those who are too unimaginative to figure out other ways of determining user intent on their site. And judging by the relatively small slice of SEOs that seem to get that, Google’s revenues may be increasing substantially in the near future.I’d say that articles like this (and a boatload of others that have been or will be published), bemoaning the impossibility of knowing how users arrived at a site without paying for Adwords, is feeding that inevitability by spreading (or at least, condoning) ignorance.

    Also, Danny, if you’ve been paying attention for the last couple of years, I don’t see how you can refer to this as “sudden”. When NP first appeared, many of us realized that there was a high probability that it would initially exceed the single-digit percentage Google projected (which it did) and would almost certainly continue to grow (which it also did) – probably to eventually arrive at 100% (and it’s there). It just made sense.

    Since that launch, the rise has been gradual, over a period of two years. I’m curious what sort of timeframe you would consider to NOT be sudden?

  • Dick Fabulous

    That’s a sinister laugh. I did a cynical laugh. Either could be used, depending on whether you work for Google or not.

  • Li Ma

    Yes, I completely agree with you, there are other methods and sources to obtain keywords data, and I actually said “this is a new business opportunity for Google charge marketers for keyword data” in a sarcastic way. They’re just making it more difficult for us SEO folks and open up a loophole for paid search advertisers.

  • imsosly

    This is simply Google taking advantage of the unconstitutional NSA practices and using them as an excuse to destroy the SEO industry, literally overnight, while virtually forcing businesses who would be paying small businesses to handle organic SEO into paying for keywords. It’s brilliant and evil at the same time. The small businesses just lost their most valuable marketing tool. If everyone is forced to pay, costs will only go up and be unaffordable for anyone to compete with multi-million/billion dollar companies.

    Bing…. now is your time to strike and kill the beast that is/was Google.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    They are not available that way.