Metrics Spotlight: What is keyword “(Not Provided)”?

Apr 23, 2013

You may have noticed something cryptic in your keywords reporting - "(not provided)".  This item has been creeping up in the ranks for many sites and is now in the top slot for many of our stations.  Wondering what this is and what you can do about it?  Well, here's some background:  The keywords that visitors typed into search engine are usually added to the referring url so that they can be captured by Google Analytics for search engine referrals.  This is true for both organic and paid search, however, when SSL search is used (usually because the user is signed in to a Google account, or using the Firefox search bar) the "Keyword" reports will show the value "(not provided)".

Confused Stormtrooper
Credit DoodleDeMoon / flickr



Unfortunately, a large portion of traffic is now showing up as “(not provided)” and there is no way to recover this information.  There are some recommendations floating around, however these are not always well suited to Public Media sites.  I try to avoid any solution that involves using a filter to overwrite or edit the data stored in any of the native fields because this can be confusing to users and because it can result in unintended data loss so I recommend using the reports available to drill in to (not provided).  

Run a keyword report.

Filter for (not provided).

Add a secondary dimension: Landing Page.

Now by looking at the results we can at least understand how much of the traffic was likely a branded term and how much was looking for something more specific. Visits that start on your homepage, schedule or listen pages were likely branded branded search terms like your call letters or station name. The more interesting results will be the ones that land on deeper like news articles.  This is certainly not as valuable as being able to see the actual keywords but it will give a better answer than (not provided).