Understanding (not provided) in Google Analytics

Understanding (not provided) in Google Analytics

Google has become sensitive to the privacy concerns of its users. This has created a bit of a problem if you’re tracking your organic keywords through Analytics.

The search giant is now hiding the keyword for signed-in users who land on your website.  Google has tried to downplay number of visitors this would effect, previously estimating that visits resulting from hidden keywords would be in the single digits. However, we’ve seen this number slowly exceed these predictions and it’s made us think.

We need to understand (not provided) traffic and what it really means.

I’m going to show you how the advanced segments in Google Analytics can help you understand what keywords are actually (not provided).

How to Make Sense of (not provided) Traffic

In this example, I’m going to take you through the steps of discovering what percentage of traffic is branded / unbranded in the (not provided) results.

Step 1

First, we need to collect some data about the keywords we are tracking. In this case I’m looking at the Analytics data for ewebmarketing.com.au, using the keyword E-Web (and it’s misspellings, e.g. eweb).

After I’ve gone to Analytics -> Traffic Sources -> Organic, I filter the list of keywords to my brand name, which gives me these results:

  • Average Pages/Visit = 2.70
  • Average Visit Duration = 2:33

Step 2

Now that we have these numbers, it’s time to find the unbranded traffic. We do this by reversing the filter to exclude branded keywords, which gives us these numbers:

  • Average Pages/Visit = 1.67
  • Average Visit Duration = 1:13

Step 3

Now we’re going to do some simple math to find the mid-point between these numbers.

  • Mid-Point for Average Pages/Visit is 2.185 (2.70 – 1.67) / 2 + 1.67
  • Mid-Point for Average Visit Duration is 1:53 (153s – 73s) /2 + 73 s

Step 4

With these Mid-Points established, we can start to filter our (not provided) traffic by creating a new Advanced Segment. 

Here I’m including all visits which had a duration  longer than 117 seconds (1:53) and which had more than 2 Pageviews. I’m saving this segment as Branded. 

I’m also going to create an Unbranded Segment, which is this same filter except we’re excluding rather than including brand search terms.

And How to Make Use of (not provided) Traffic

So what we’re doing is identifying the behaviour of users who came to our site using branded keywords, and applying those behaviours to the (not provided) visitors.

This method isn’t 100% and it relies on a few assumptions; primarily that signed in visitors search the same as non-signed in visitors. It’s certainly a much better strategy to take then disregarding your (not provided) traffic entirely.

P.S.: If you’re using AdWords, then these privacy changes don’t effect your AdWords campaign. You can still find out which keywords are generating your traffic and landing on your website. Which suggests an interesting hypocrisy from Google.

Users’ search data is protected – unless you’re paying for it.


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We’ve been in the digital marketing field for over 18 years and worked with hundreds of Australian (and international) businesses to grow their web presence. Specialising in SEO, search ads (PPC), social media, content marketing, email marketing and conversion rate optimisation.

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