Google Possibly Revisiting (Not Provided) Keywords

Google’s switch to secure search in 2012, also known as the entrance of the era of “not provided” keywords, has become the bane of many an SEO’s existence. Even bloggers, such as myself, interested in seeing what organic searches are driving traffic have become frustrated with this move, as it drastically reduces the amount of insight we have into the behaviors of of our visitors. 

Google has been subjected to further criticism for their hypocrisy in this move. As many of you know, us on the paid search side of things still get to see all of our keywords resulting in site visits. This “benefit” granted to advertisers has led many to question Google’s sincerity in keeping user searches secure– sure, it’s fine when they’re free, but if it effects the bottom line….

At last week’s SMX West, Google search chief Amit Singhal fielded a question from Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan raised the “not provided” keywords issue, and the response, was, well, not what most people expected:

Over a period of time, we [Google’s search and ad sides] have been looking at this issue…. we’re also hearing from our users that they would want their searches to be secure … it’s really important to the users. We really like the way things have gone on the organic side of search.

I have nothing to announce right now, but in the coming weeks and months as [we] find the right solution, expect something to come out.


What this may mean, we’ll just have to wait and find out. Two major speculations being tossed about the webs:

  1. Google will start providing access to keywords from organic searches again, possibly through Webmaster Tools
  2. Google will remove access to paid keywords from Analytics

While the first move would satiate SEOs, the second would certainly upset some PPC managers. But, is Google really that concerned about either?

Marketers managing paid search are still going to advertise with Google because, well, it’s Google. And, besides, we can get keyword-level data from the AdWords interface, including exact searches from the Search Query Report. SEO’s will continue to optimize without keyword-specific data, as they have been, regardless of the outcome.

Forced to wager a bet, I’d put my money on Google reducing, or gradually eliminating, PPC keywords from Analytics reporting, over them allowing access to organic searches via Webmaster Tools. Though, like most of you, I’d prefer the alternative.

What do you think Google will do about not provided keywords? Do you anticipate any change at all??


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