Have you ever checked your analytics for organic search traffic? If you’re involved in SEO, of course the answer is yes, so you have probably been noticing a disturbing trend. In your organic search query data, the [not provided] number is growing…and growing…and growing. The amount of usable, actionable analytics data is dwindling, being replaced by the [not provided] monster. It makes it hard to plan, and it makes it even harder to deliver useful data to clients if you’re an agency. There is one point you can take some solace in though:
You are not alone.
Just this week, BrightEdge has released a new report showing that out of the over eight thousand brands they tracked last quarter, nearly 50% of the total queries came up as [not provided]. This is up from last year, and even from last quarter. What’s worse, it differs by industry, and the tech and marketing industries are among the most affected. Many technology companies are reporting [not provided] numbers as high at 56%, and many marketing companies are reporting [not provided] numbers as high as 75%. These higher numbers are anecdotal, but our own research is showing similar results, so we’re inclined to believe it’s true.
Officially, Google is doing this to keep search secure, but many believe the real reason is a lot more about the money. With [not provided] numbers on rise, more people will be forced to use AdWords to get that search data. Is it paranoid to think that Google is purposefully driving more people to use AdWords? We don’t think so. When there’s money to be made from a decision, it always factors in.
For now, use what data you can get from your analytics. You can supplement this data by looking at your webmaster tools data and behavioral data to try and construct a big picture view. As this problem gets worse, more and more people will be looking for solutions, and we have to believe that one will eventually surface that takes care of the issue.
Finally, there’s one more view, one that suggests maybe this whole thing isn’t what it seems…