Frustrated you’re not able to see your organic keywords? Let me show you how to uncover more keywords with Google Search Console.
It used to be simple to answer: “what keywords are driving people to my website?”
Before 2011, you could look at your Organic Keywords report in Google Analytics (GA). Now, what you see is a large percentage of traffic called: (not provided). Why are keywords (not provided)?
In 2011, to protect searcher privacy Google decided to encrypt keyword searches for searchers logged-in to Google using Google’s search engine. Curiously, this change came about shortly after an $8.5 million lawsuit in 2010 when Google was sued for sharing search queries of its users to third parties without their consent. Google never did confirm whether this lawsuit was the reason why they made a move toward secure search.
Secure search had a number of consequences for SEO, PPC and analytics including limiting Google’s organic keywords available in all web analytics platforms like Adobe, Coremetrics and GA. GA responded to the Search Engine adjustments by reflecting these keywords as (not provided).
At first, Matt Cutts estimated the (not provided) keywords to be minimal or as he put it “single-digit percentages”. However, in 2013 that number continued to climb as Google quietly expanded secure search beyond logged-in searches.
Fast-forward to today, a large portion (in ClickInsight’s case over 95%!) of your keywords are now hidden from you resulting in an ongoing struggle to uncover which organic search terms are driving traffic to your website.
Reveal Your (Not Provided) Keywords
You can see what keywords led people to your website in your Search Console. For convenience, you can also link your Google Search Console to Google Analytics. By linking this data, you’ll be able to see your keywords alongside post-click metrics. Moreover by clicking through the landing page links in the Landing Pages report you can see which keywords are associated with which landing page.
Know that you may find some of your traffic appears as (other):
“To protect user privacy, some queries that are made infrequently or that contain sensitive or personal information are grouped together as (other)”- Source: Google Analytics Help
Unfortunately, there’s no way to get around (other) to get further details. The amount of (other) data you see will depend on how many unique long tail queries you have and if Google thinks it can be tied back to the individual. Websites with more unique keywords will have more (other) keywords to reduce risking the privacy of web searchers. In these cases, Search Console is not very helpful because you will still have a lot of hidden keywords.
For example, in ClickInsight’s case Search Console gives us ~85% (other) keywords down from ~95% (not provided):
Other Places You Can Find Your (Not Provided) Keywords
If you are part of the unlucky few with a lot of (other) keywords you may be able to find more of your organic keywords if you are a DoubleClick Search advertiser. Unfortunately you won’t be able to see your DoubleClick Search Terms in Google Analytics even if you’ve set up the DoubleClick Search integration. You can however login to your DoubleClick Search account and navigate to the Search Terms report.
As an AdWords advertiser you can better understand how your organic keywords play out in combination with your paid search ads. Again, you would need to link to Search Console. Once Search Console is linked to AdWords you’ll be able to see your organic keywords next to your paid keywords and their performance metrics. You can find this under the Dimensions tab and choose “Paid & Organic” from the drop-down menu:
[Side note: Before you ask, no your organic keywords are not captured in your server side logs.]
Getting More Organic Traffic Using Popular Keywords
Lastly, if you want to better understand the gap between the total searches for your keyword and how many are coming to your website try Google Trends. It can give you a rough idea of the expected traffic for your organic keywords and will indicate which keywords are popular or rising in popularity. You can segment these queries by: related topic areas, geography and date range. This tool can help you find lookalike keywords which you can integrate into your website content to drive more organic traffic.
Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out below.