• http://www.swydo.com/ jeroen maljers

    I think it is a logical and good decision. In analytics packages you could now make the match between the search term and other visitor characteristics like IP, locations, browser. You could pinpoint it nearly to specific users and that is harming their privacy. It’s not hard to think of cases where this kind of information could lead to strange and unwanted situations. So its logical that this is not provided. In the Adwords interface and API all info is still available and reporting platforms like Swydo and others are unaffected. Platforms that facilitate B2B lead gen may loose the match between company name and query and platforms that rely on Analytics for Adwords reporting will have some development hours to invest.

  • Duran

    I do not get this. How is this logical? How is Google being fair on small business and niche industries? It sounds like you guys are all just playing the Google game. Why go through so much hassle? The people at Google are hypocrites. When “Not Provided” was first announced, we had a big discussion at SMX London with Pierre from Google. The discussion was, “Why do you hide keywords for SEO and display them for PPC on analytics?” This was 3 years ago! And just now they have realized that this is unfair?

    What a joke….

    Very few experts in the industry stand up and say, “This is wrong!” such as Aaron Wall. As long as we keep saying, “Hey, this is not so bad.”, Google will keep NOT caring about its so called “Partners”, users, privacy or anything else for that matter. Do you guys really buy the privacy BS? Yes, I have an idea; scare everyone from SEO with updates and penalties, hide the keywords (essential data) from analytics, in the meantime, improve Adwords and update every single tool including user interface, push everyone to spend money on Adwords, establish those new advertisers for a few years and then say “Oh, yes. You guys are right. This is kind of unfair.” What a strategy!

    Search for any home appliance, what do you see? Amazon, Sears, Ebay, Overstock, Wallmart, Staples etc. This is NOT what Google used to be gentlemen. We should stop encouraging this behavior.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    I understand that it is frustrating and seems arbitrary. This doesn’t have a huge impact on PPC management, which is what this article is about. Ultimately, it is Google’s game. No one is owed search traffic. We have to either earn it through offering users what they want better than others do, or paying for the ad space in the auction. If the average user searches for “home appliance” is “Fred’s local appliances” what they want or is it more likely that the big brands offer wider selection, better prices and more sense of security for the customer? Bounce rate is a HUGE ranking signal, and the search engines learn which sites are sticky and which aren’t. I fear what you see isn’t a conspiracy against SMBs, it’s a reflection of consumer preferences. There is a reason those companies get huge.

  • Ron T

    I disagree. I pay for the search traffic, I own it. I should have access to the data I am paying for. How am I supposed to know what terms are actually driving sales? We find that the bid keywords and the user keywords are VERY different and allow us to broaden our keyword lists. There are companies spending millions of dollars monthly that use this data.

    How are you supposed to build out your negatives list if you don’t know what keywords are driving traffic?

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Thanks for your comment, Ron. I hear you, but as I mentioned in the piece the aggregated data is still available in the search terms report, and if you have conversion tracking, you can get a pretty good sense of which variants are good and which are not so good. Agree that it’s an annoyance, but I don’t think it’s a game changer.

  • Duran


    I’m not referring to PPC Management. I’m referring to the tone and the approach. Everybody knew that displaying keywords for PPC and hiding them for SEO was unethical. Only a few people in the industry raised concerns.

    I’m not frustrated with Google. We have moved away (my company and clients) relying on Google traffic a long time ago. I’m also not suggesting that anybody is owed traffic. However, I have an issue with seeing big businesses for 95% of the product searches. I know small businesses (not local businesses but ecommerce sites) who have 10 times the selection of the “so called” big brands with better service and personalized attention. Yet, if you search for “ID Badges”, somehow Wallmart or Staples show up with 50 products.

    So, according to you, big brands deserve top results because majority of users are picking them? That is not an algorithm, that is just a majority approach. An algorithm must be more complex than “Most users prefer big brands.” I do not, and I know 100 people like me , around me.

    My point is simple; let’s stop making Google feel like we will always play along. Let’s discuss the realities without sugar coating things. Does anyone still believe that Google’s algorithm and business decisions are solely based on user well-being? (They state this at every turn, every conference and blog post) Or, is their algorithm based on maximizing their profits by pushing their properties (Adwords, News, Maps, Products, Images) on users’ screens?

    Foor for thought…

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Thanks for your comments, Duran. Food for thought indeed. Google’s short term profits might be ginned up by playing favorites, and certainly squeezing organic results into a smaller portion of the display on the SERP does that, but long term if Google doesn’t serve results that users want users will go elsewhere and that endangers their business fundamentally. Agree that they don’t always get it right, but I don’t think big brands or big advertisers get additional weight in the organic listings for those reasons. Bigness carries benefits with consumers that may translate into the same outcome on the SERP, but I don’t think Google is cooking the results that way. That said, none of us knows for certain.

  • Ron T

    Of course its a game changer. Google is hiding what is going on with your campaign. Its hiding the keywords that you could be using that might be cheaper, its hiding the bad keywords so you keep paying for them. Its hiding the keywords that you should be negating to make your campaign more efficient. How is that not a game changer?

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Thanks Ron, so you’re suggesting that once they’ve veiled the query strings they might start putting phony data in the search terms report? I guess that could happen. It seems like a huge business risk for one of the world’s most valuable companies to take, and one that would be easy to catch them in. Moreover, advertisers spend money with Google because it’s profitable to do so. If Google starts throwing crappy traffic through the ads, smart advertisers will bid down and spend less. Doesn’t seem like a long term strategy for success.

    We don’t know what we don’t know, of course, I just don’t think Google serves its interests by screwing up the targeting.

  • Ron T

    I wasn’t suggesting putting in phony data, but I’ve found that their search terms report doesn’t match my weblogs. I have never trusted them for my campaigns.

  • Dana Tan

    I am glad Google addressed what I always thought was a hypocritical move when they added (not provided) to unpaid search but didn’t apply it to paid. To reiterate George’s comment, the data Google has taken out of Google Analytics IS still available in Google Adwords Reporting. In fact it goes one step further than what you can get when looking at Search Query data in Google Webmaster Tools. If you link your GWT to your Google Adwords account, you can get ALL the search queries, whether they were paid or unpaid, what the click-through rate and average position were and whether or not they converted. You won’t be limited to 2,000 queries (like in GWT). The only caveat is there isn’t historical data, so tracking doesn’t start until you connect your accounts. So, for those of you who haven’t connected your accounts, giddy-up and get on over there and get it done.

    This really makes perfect sense in terms of protecting searchers’ privacy. By providing the data outside of analytics, it still gives marketers like us what we need to optimize our ads and pages, but it disconnects that data from personally identifiable information. That’s a connection that really did need to be broken.

    It’s also a brilliant business move on Google’s part. This is a perfect example where doing the right thing also happened to be very good for Google’s business model. Think about it, now, if you are a marketer and you want to see what search queries are producing results, you have to have an Adwords account. Brilliant. Think Google is greedy? Maybe so, but keep in mind two things: 1. Google is a business and 2. You don’t have to spend a single dime in Adwords in order to get access to the data. You just need to open an Adwords account and connect it to GWT. So, if you don’t already have an Adwords account, it’s time to get crackin’ and I’m not talking about pistachios.

  • Toni Voutilainen

    It does seem schizophrenic that on one hand Google is eagerly rolling out updates to reveal more (a lot more) about visitors, for example with Universal Analytics and even Enhanced Campaigns. And then on the other hand they want to, to a degree, blindfold us.

    Could it be that this is due to the advice of their legal department prior to having the critical mass of websites migrating to UA and having increased concerns about user privacy surface. “No no, we take use privacy very seriously, look at what we did with search query referral data”. Don’t know.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Hi Toni, It could be a legal remedy, and in truth the RTB functionality being exposed via enhanced campaigns and RLSAs is more based on classifications than individual targets, but…

    They also have to build their systems to comply with not just US and EU laws but many others as well which may have differing notions of where the privacy line is drawn.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Thanks for your excellent commentary, Dana.

  • galileo_pkm

    The behaviour of the majority of “experts” you describe can be observed in all areas of society, most predominantly politics.
    Paraphrasing Harold Rosenberg: herd of independent minds.

    Most are dancing to the google tune: Don’t [get caught] be[ing] evil.™

    Change is almost impossible since google is fuel-ed by the big corporations. Same corporations broke every google “rule” and got away with it.

    I have (a long time ago) went to the dark side (BH) for seo purposes and try not to rely on SE traffic as much as possible.

  • Jay McCartney

    Agreed that this is an annoyance rather than the end of the world. Setting that aside, I find it interesting that much of the focus has been on the “hypocrisy” (the opinion of others, not mine) of providing keyword data in paid while hiding it for organic. However, I have yet to see an article or post discussing the other major disconnect (some might call it hypocrisy) on Google’s part.

    With this change, Google will stop passing the actual searched keyword for each individual click to the destination site to protect the privacy and security of users. At the same time, Google is willing to accept conversion data back from the destination site in order to provide performance reports within the AdWords interface. If we were to interview users of Google, which would those users feel is a greater invasion of privacy?

    1) That the user searched for “big blue widget”, clicked on a clearly marked advertisement from Site A stating “Buy Really Large Colorful Widgets Here”, and that Site A is informed “big blue widget” was the phrase typed into Google by the user.


    2) That once the user clicks an advertisement and purchases from Site A, Site A reports to Google the fact that a purchase occurred as well as the dollar amount of
    that purchase. The user has not given affirmative permission to have this information shared with Google, nor has the user been given any option to opt
    out of this sharing of information.

    I’ll pause for a moment while we all agree that 9 out of 10 Google users would choose #2 as the greater invasion of privacy. I’ll then continue by saying that the resolution to this second “hypocrisy” is simple. Google can choose to truly protect user privacy by discontinuing all use of AdWords conversion tracking. Alternatively, Google could clearly mark every ad (for advertisers utilizing conversion tracking) with a disclaimer that any order placed after clicking the ad will result in reporting to Google that a conversion has taken place. Users would then have the option to protect themselves by avoiding clicking those ads.

    So if privacy really is the problem that all of this is aimed to solve, will Google take one of these additional steps to truly protect the privacy of their users? I’ll start holding my breath.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    It’s a great point Jay, and it isn’t as though Google doesn’t see the referrer query, they just don’t want the advertiser to see that. In ecommerce that’s particularly nutty because the advertiser if successful will end up with the person’s name address and credit card number. Users trust us with that, but not with the phrase they used to get to the site?!? Granted, many advertisers are “publishers” and users may not want to share anything with those folks, but in our space the “you can’t be trusted with such personal info” is pretty kooky.

  • tedives

    Great writeup George.

    So does this mean, if I want to optimize down to the actual search query level, what I need to do is abandon using Google Analytics for the actual goal tracking and use Adwords’ native goal tracking instead?

    Or maybe use both – set up identical goals but don’t import them from Analytics, then just track them in two places – once in Adwords, so I can get access to actual search query conversions, and once in Google Analytics so I can do attribution analysis at the bidded keyword level?

    If so, this really screws up the whole concept of having “one version of the truth”.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Right the search terms report is now the only relatively complete view of user searches, but analyzing which tokens lead to better or worse conversion rates is harder to hack at than when we could see that on our end and have processes built to make it happen and your point about attribution is well made.