Google is like a bartender. Everyone loves them until last call.
Google has been getting us drunk on data for well over a decade now.
And, by giving us access to the free Google Analytics, the drinks have been on the house. But things changed when just over a year ago, Google began encrypting keyword data for users that are logged into their Google accounts.
One study by Optify reports that the average website has ~40% of their keywords hidden by the dreaded (not provided).
Here at The Daily Egg, ~60% of our traffic from organic search is showing as (not provided). Yep, 60%!
And it makes sense. Our audience is very Internet savvy, I fully expect this percentage to increase.
You are a great example, how often are you logged out of your Google account these days? And with Google+ making so much noise with Google Authorship, you and Google are becoming even more attached at the hip.
I know I should be mad as hell that Google is obstructing these keywords. After all, this sudden interest in privacy is awfully convenient for Google — especially since this keyword data is not obstructed when you are paying Google through their AdWords program.
But that’s not my style. I’m far too strong for that. And besides, I’ve no more tears left to give.
So, instead let’s look for a way forward.
Here’s one good one.
Set up Google Analytics to track internal site search
It’s true, Google taketh away a good percentage of organic keyword data. But they’ve also provided a way to easily track internal site search on your website.
Internal site search data is, in my humble opinion, much more actionable than inbound traffic from a search engine. These searchers are telling you exactly what they are looking for — on your website!
You can get information like,
- Did they have to refine their site search? – Not a good thing, but hey — you can fix this!
- Did they complete any goals? It’s good when you see your site search is aiding in conversions.
- Did they exit? – Probably not a good thing when someone uses your site search and then exits the site. Fix this.
And perhaps most actionable of all — keyword phrases that users are typing into internal site search will tell you exactly what content needs to be created.
An example of site search data in action
The application of site search data for an eCommerce website is fairly obvious. If 100’s of people are searching your site for “blue buckets” and you don’t sell them — you should consider adding them to your inventory.
Support websites like the Crazy Egg support site benefit greatly from site search data. When we see the same query typed into the search bar multiple times, we can fix the issue with the product, add support content to the knowledge base or fix the content that already exists so it’s easier to find with site search.
But site search is great for optimizing a blog as well. Here’s an example.
After implementing internal site search on The Daily Egg, I checked the report after about a week.
I was surprised.
It was clear that the most searched for keywords were the names of the authors on this blog. The readers want to know more about WHO is doing the writing. This prompted me to look at a Crazy Egg heat map of a blog post page.
Sure enough, the heat map was showing that visitors were trying to click on the name and image of the author. But these were not linked to anything. Not good.
So, I went to work creating author pages for each author that provided a bio, an archive of the articles they have written and a set of links to their social networking hangouts.
Here’s my new author bio.
More information about our authors is obviously something that our readers are interested in, the site search reports made that clear. We took action.
How to set up internal site search in Google Analytics
Let’s turn our attention to setting up internal site search in Google Analytics.
First, access the Admin section for the profile where you will be adding site search. Open the “Profile Settings” for that profile and tick the box that says “Do track site search.”
After ticking this box, you will then need to add the query parameters that your search function is using. If you are not a techy, don’t get frightened. It’s generally pretty simple to locate your parameters.
Simply perform a search on your website and take a look at the URL string on the results page.
For example, if I search for the term ‘billing address’ on the Crazy Egg support website, the URL on the results page looks this way,
Then, enter the query parameter into the appropriate field in your Google Analytics profile settings,
That’s it. Wait at least 4 hours before checking the Site Search report.
This report is located under CONTENT > SITE SEARCH in the Google Analtyics navigation.
There’s more you can do
Let’s face it. This sucks.
Not having 60% of the keyword data from organic search is a problem.
But when you’re finished gnashing your teeth — you will need to take action.
Here’s some additional reading on the subject that will help:
- 5 Tips for Handling (Not Provided) Data – Uri Bar-Joseph of Optify provides some options you have including accessing Google Webmaster Tools and PPC to replace data lost by (not provided).
- Making cats into turnips: Using Google Webmaster Tools query data – Ian Lurie of Portent provides a formula that he says
workssorta works for integrating data from Google Webmaster Tools with data from Google Analytics.
It’s a Google world and we’re all just living in it.
But I refuse to sit idly by and cry in my beer, even as Google cuts me off and calls me a cab.
What are you doing to work around (not provided) keywords?