Impact of (not provided) keywords on Analytics data


In October 2011 (October 18th to be precise) Google announced a change to the way data will be made available from natural search. It gave reasons of privacy for stopping access to the keywords searched on by anyone logged into their Google account.

This change has caused concern for some web marketing professionals who use search data to measure website and marketing campaign performance. Google indicated this is not a major issue, impacting under 10% of queries.

10% is still very significant, but what is the true value?

We have been analysing this using data from over 1 million different visitors, in different market sectors, both UK and international, both English language and other language search and by type of website. The results show huge variations.

Real impact of (not provided) in search results

Firstly the headline ‘average’ figures.

Based on over 11,000 natural search results which returned a (not provided) for the keyword, then 1.5% of natural searches have been impacted by the change in October by Google to natural search.

But this average number is very misleading, and hides a huge variation between website. For websites with sufficiently large volumes of data to give data already, we have seen figures as low as near zero for high traffic ecommerce stores to the consumer market and over 4% for B2B type websites.

So far we have determined that for about 50% of websites we manage or provide Internet Marketing for that this change by Google has negligible impact, or any impact in reporting is lower that 1%. Of course this might change. This information is probably showing that the clients of these websites do not use gmail, perhaps preferring other webmail providers. These websites are a mix of B2B and B2C but there is a statistically valid bias towards the B2C websites. There is no difference in website size or visitor volume with some of the largest and highest volume ecommerce websites falling into this category along with more modest websites in niche markets.

About 10% of websites we have data for are seeing over 2.5% of search queries as (not provided) and this will be impacting analysis. There are more international or multilingual websites in this group, and a stronger percentage of B2B websites but these websites cover a diverse area from B2B, tourism, entertainment and education.

We are monitoring this. It does provide a very useful analysis of how many website visitors use google accounts and stay logged on to gmail. The answer is lower than expected!

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