(Not Provided) on the rise, how can we get by without keyword data?

Keep up with the very latest developments in the digital marketing world

By Dave Ashworth
on 7/8/12

Whilst reading Mike Blumenthal’s local search blog, I came across this article relating to (not provided) keyword data, and the fact that his was now over 60%... which is quite scary for us organic SEOers.

Looking back at the Return On Digital analytics, the figure has risen from around 0.5% last October to 28.9% in July.  Reviewing a number of client sites of varied traffic levels in July we are seeing figures ranging between, roughly, 5%-30%.

In each instance though, it is increasing month on month.  And whilst some remain “low” – many sites are now above the “single digit percentage” that Matt Cutts claimed would be affected when questioned by Danny Sullivan.  In the case of Blumenthal’s blog, massively so.

Not that we didn’t see this coming.  Even the most trusting of Google evangelists must’ve seen the writing was on the wall when it became apparent that PPC data would remain intact and unaffected.

What we as SEOers must now do, if you haven’t done so already, is prepare for a life where large chunks of our keyword data is (not provided).

First of all you should make sure you have goals set up with analytics and look at linking these to optimised landing pages.  Using event tracking to observe site activity would also work to an extent.  Of course, these would involve getting more involved within Google Analytics which long term is not a concrete strategy  because as we can clearly see, they can introduce game changers any time they please.

You could, like Rand Fishkin and this Portent blogger, turn to Bing as your search engine of choice – “If you don’t like Google, then stop helping them. Discontinue using Google as your default choice.”  - this may well sound like an honourable search engine crusade, though convincing the rest of the non SEO searching world to join you may take some time.

Do you have any contingency plans in place for the day when (not provided) gets a lot closer to 100%?  Can you get by without keyword data?  Or are you going to stick with Google’s plan of building a great website and content, and hope everything works out alright?

Provided they don’t change Google Analytics to reduce further what they tell us about our visitors, we may able to get by.  Provided being the keyword here, as it were.