Don’t Cry About Not Provided SEO Keywords. Set Up Internal Site Search Analytics

by 28 01/17/2013

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%!

Organic Search Showing As Not Provided

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!

search-the-blog

An example search on The Daily Egg

 

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.

Heat Map

 

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.”

Site Search Settings

 

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,

 

Finding Query Parameters for Site Search

 

Then, enter the query parameter into the appropriate field in your Google Analytics profile settings,

Where to enter query parameters for site search

 

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.

Content and Site Search Reports

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:

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?

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About 

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, Salesforce.com and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.

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28 COMMENTS

Sharon Hurley Hall

Thanks for this tip, Russ – I wonder if it’s possible to do something similar with Clicky?

January 17, 2013 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Thanks Sharon! Not sure about Clicky. Maybe one of the readers knows.

    January 17, 2013 Reply

JN

The solution is a decent option — HOWEVER your site search may only give you an additional 5-20 % of the search terms. And to be honest the ones that BRING users to your site have more value then internal search terms..

The internal search terms IMHO are vague and not valuable enough.

However I can confirm and I see the same issues in OMNITURE any natural results from google.com show as not provided – might as well say – Too Bad, we wont tell you!.

Solution – buy adwords. Is that what would make big brother “G” happiest?

Good article Russ.

Ciao

January 17, 2013 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Thanks for adding this! Internal site search is really a completely different animal. I agree that keywords that bring visitors to your website are super important — unfortunately this data is gone and I don’t know if it’s ever coming back. I’ve turned to other analytics that can add value to my clients.

    Thanks again for adding this JN! The conversation is better because you are a part of it!

    January 17, 2013 Reply

Bob Sommers

Great article Russ. We definately want to do this on our website. Thanks for the tip. I’m going to pass it on to our (GET) Guru of Everthing Technical.

January 17, 2013 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Thanks Bob! I’m sure your son will be thrilled to get after this one! :)

    January 17, 2013 Reply

Rob

Russ, this is a huge help to webmasters and marketers that aren’t working with a savy internet marketer. I can’t tell you how much internal search data has helped form strategies, tactics, etc. When I’m working with my clients on brand strategy I always consult their internal site search, if it’s present. If it’s not, we implement and analyze the data in 1-2 months. I typically use the process you’ve outlined here within GA, but if I’m working with them to set up their internal site search from scratch, we typically pull that data directly from the backend! The data is there, we just have to access and analyze!

January 17, 2013 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Fantastic stuff Rob! Thanks for adding this! Sounds like YOU are the guru on this!

    January 17, 2013 Reply

Anastasia Koltai

Thank you very much Russ! It’s a great review with explanation.

January 17, 2013 Reply

George Phillip

Awesome post Russ. Interal site search definitely provides actionable insights that can be used for SEO to get some quick wins.

January 20, 2013 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Thanks George! Yep, internal site search data is a content marketers best friend.

    January 21, 2013 Reply

Kalpesh Joshi

Just ran across this post, thanks for outling some good strategies Russ!

Testing out newegg right now, and of course now GA’s site search tracking… Will need to read up more with the additional links to combine webmaster tools…

July 17, 2013 Reply

Sanjeev Shakya

Thanks for posting valuable information.

October 1, 2013 Reply

Dima Al Mahsiri

I didn’t have any idea about the ” (not provided) keywords”. Not untill I read your post :)
I used to think that these come from other searches like Yahoo and Bing, but thank God now I know what it is about.
I have just set my Analytics account to track searches within my blog, will see what I will get after few hours.

October 6, 2013 Reply

David Scarpitta

I knew this was coming. Google has played the entire SEO world, corp execs, and small businesses like myself. In fact my site DasCheap.com has seen a 90% Not found previous to the switch of all secure. And really, I never relied on Google to create my search marketing campaigns.

As a domainer, and a developer, I would say that if you intend to be sucessful at your online product, then you NEED TO KNOW your customer in and out. Take personal surveys, call back convertered signups, offer incentives to have users share more data.

People who rely solely on Google for their online success is nothing more than a Google employee. This paradigm shift in the industry is going to shake loose the men from the boys!

October 19, 2013 Reply

Ken Glick (EEI)

I know I may have come to this party a little late, but for the life of me I cannot find the “Property Settings” tab in my Google Analytics page. Instead, it’s there are three sections titled Account, Property and View, in none of them have a Property Settings subsection.

Has Google changed the way it lays out its Analytics page since January 2013 when you posted this article?

December 12, 2013 Reply

Catherine

Hey! In case others can’t find ‘content’ >> ‘site search’ and spend 5 mins going nuts looking at it in GA like me I found it under “Behaviour” – not “content”. Google must have moved it since this post was written. Great post – thanks.

January 8, 2014 Reply

Marita

OK, so I thought I was really smart, because I’ve had the search parameters already set up. But your article reminded me to actually check them and how to set them up correctly in the first place… :) Thanks!

March 24, 2014 Reply

Lakshmi

Thanks for the articile. Very nice and explantive.
It is possible to customise the URLs.. i.e. if i want a specified page to be displayed for a specific keyword, how i can i do that?

September 11, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Lakshmi, definitely. If you go into the back-end of your CMS it should be pretty easy.

    September 11, 2014 Reply


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