Last year Google announced that they would start encrypting search data when a user is logged into their Google account. Google Analytics would still track these visitors once they arrived on the site, but the keywords searches used to find the website would now be listed under “Not Provided”. Google assured site owners that the encrypted search would only impact about 10% of analytics. Although it’s less than ideal, I was still confident that I’d be able to make valuable SEO recommendations for my SEO clients based on the remaining data. However, it became quickly evident that the 10% was a far cry from what was actually happening.
It’s been less than a year since Google announced their encrypted search update, and I’ve seen my own website’s analytics be impacted so dramatically that over 60% of the keyword information is listed under “Not Provided.” Most of my clients are also seeing “Not Provided” dominate their analytics. Losing that data makes SEO a lot harder than it needs to be. Knowing what keywords people are using to find your website tells you if you’re targeting the right keywords, if there are any changes in search behavior, if your SEO campaign is pulling in searches for the right keyword variations and more. With more than 50% of that data missing how can we effectively judge the impact and success of our SEO campaigns? While we may not be working completely in the dark, it’s definitely getting a lot more complicated than it needs to be.
Has anyone gotten so fed up with the “Not Provided” data that they’ve jumped the Google Analytics ship?
I know there are other analytics providers out there, but I’ve avoided using them for my own site, as well as my clients, for several reasons. First off, a lot of second party analytics providers get their data from Google. If Google isn’t passing along all of the information to their own tool I highly doubt those third party providers are getting the missing pieces. Secondly, third party analytics tools can get very expensive very quickly. While a major enterprise might be able to the cost, there are plenty of small to medium sized websites that’s simply can’t justify the cost. Google Analytics is a free tool, and up until the encrypted search announcement it was a pretty great one. Now site owners who can’t afford the third party analytics are caught between a rock and a hard place; they can’t afford to pay for the data that used to be given for free.
I’ve seen client experiment with some of the cheaper analytics solutions in the past, and oftentimes it negatively impacts their site in one way or another. Every extra piece of code you put on your website has the potential to cause problems. One of my consulting clients actually took a hit in the SERPs after he installed a new analytics solution and was only able to rebound after he removed it. I don’t want to risk that happening with my site or any of my client’s sites.
What are you doing to work around the “Not Provided” data? Have you found new ways to dig through Google Analytics to get the information you need or have you adopted a new analytics provider?