As marketers, we have always been dying to figure out sure-fire solutions that drive our target audiences to our business blogs. Nobody’s to blame because that’s the exactly how we make money. And if our prospects do find us, we want to know exactly how they were able to do so.

It’s no secret that keywords are a gold mine for the massive success of your business. Keywords bridge the gap between what people are searching for online (to solve their problems and meet their needs, of course) and your website content.

Again, these are particular words or phrases that people type in a search engine’s or Google’s search box to get a relevant list of web pages.

Without targeting and optimizing for the right keywords, you won’t be able to attract audiences that are ready to do business with you at any second.

Unless you run a brand new blog and are still not getting a ton of traffic, by now you should be actively using Google Analytics to keep an eye on the very keywords that your current visitors have used to arrive at your site.

What does (not provided) mean in Google Analytics and why should you care?

In the early days of the internet, Google Analytics used to report all the keywords that drive traffic to websites. Site owners can only look at their analytics to check for these organic search terms and use them to optimize their content. This is fantastic, knowing that everything is laid out for business owners and SEOs to take advantage of.

Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. Six years ago, in October 2011, Google made a shift to ensure security on search. What happened? This removed some valuable search terms responsible for website traffic in Google Analytics.

These traffic-driving keywords that Google hid show up as (not provided). Instead of seeing all search terms, (not provided) is what you’ll find:

not provided

Image source: WordStream

Have you noticed this in your analytics? Does this bother you?

Unfortunately, some people who have been running their blogs for months do not know what (not provided) means. They think that this is some technical glitch or something to be ignored.

Even if you are a newbie online site owner, this topic deserves your attention if you are serious about scaling your business.

But why?

What made Google decide to take such action? Why keep site owners in the dark by limiting their access to organic keyword data on Analytics?

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Google announced in 2011 (see screenshot below) that they are protecting the privacy of online users by “making the SSL search on https://www.google.com the default experience” for users signed in on any Google product – Gmail or any Google account.

google 2011

For example, if you’re logged into your Gmail and would type into Google “Kissmetrics.com,” you should be directed to the URL “https://www.kissmetrics.com/.”

However, the irony of this is that Google does not limit a site owners’ access to all keywords given that they pay for Google AdWords.

So, if you’re an AdWords advertiser, you’re able to get data on keywords that drive traffic to you from paid search. This is one reason why many SEOs have criticized Google for limiting data to get more ad revenue.

Despite what Google said about hiding only a small proportion of organic search terms, some site owners see up to 97% of (not provided) data.

Why uncovering (not provided) matters

Here’s the thing: SEO matters for the growth of your online business. Whether you’re looking for more people to discover your content or buy from you, you need to track those referrals from Google.

If you’re currently earning from one or more of your products, you’ll never be able to find out which specific keywords were responsible for those sales.

Working on SEO with incomplete data on Analytics is useless. From an online business owner’s standpoint, (not provided) hinders them from making improvements to their content and products and services. This is even worse if you discover (not provided) showing up for the majority of your search terms.

Again, put in mind that keyword data helps reveals online searchers’ intent. Whatever brings traffic to your site is worth your time and attention.

Ways to uncover or replace (not provided) data

No matter what Google’s reason is for not sharing keyword data with you, your best move now should be to find ways to get these search terms back or at least have a “better idea” on the keywords people are using. Luckily, I have outlined several useful strategies you can apply immediately.

Use Google AdWords to reveal data related to paid traffic

We’ve already told you previously that if you want to get all referral data instantly, you should pay for AdWords.

However, take note that this referral data only applies to paid search. Google AdWords does not reveal the keywords for organic traffic. The issue on (not provided), which relates to organic search, is not completely solved through AdWords.

Nevertheless, Google AdWords remains to be a useful advertising tool if they wish to know the value of high-traffic keywords. You can find these paid search terms on Analytics under “Matched Search Queries.”

Extract (not provided) data to reveal landing pages

What this method does for you is that it shows the landing page URLs for the (not provided) referrals. Even if this will not show the keywords that are responsible for your traffic, knowing the landing pages for these terms helps you make an educated guess on those hidden keywords.

To reveal these landing pages, you need to create filters for all your (not provided) search terms on Analytics.

To do this, go to the Admin section of your Analytics, then head to Profiles. Select “Advanced” under Filter Type. You should be able to fill out three fields adjacent to their corresponding pull-down menus:

google analytics

Image source: Kissmetric

  • For Field A->Extract A, choose “Campaign Term” from the drop-down menu. Type “(.not provided)” into the search box.
  • For Field B->Extract B, choose “Request URL” from the pull-down menu. Type “(.*)” into the search box.
  • For Output To->Constructor, choose “Campaign Term” again from the pull-down menu. Type “np-$B1” into the search box.

Next, select Yes as the option for “Field A Required,” “Field B Required,” and “Override Output Field.” Select No for “Case-sensitive.” Then, click Save.

Find out what people are looking for on your site

Do you have a search bar on your website? If you don’t, you’re missing a lot of chances to know what your visitors are looking for on your site.

You can collect data on the terms that people have entered into your search box. These search terms provide you valuable information on what they desire and whether your site was able to provide it.

For example, if you find that your visitors typed a certain blog post topic or product into your search box and your site doesn’t have it yet, this tells you that what you need to add. More importantly, site search allows you find possible (not provided) keywords that you can work into your content.

For you to set up site search, head to the admin dashboard of your Analytics. Select the view in which you want to set up your site search. After you click “Site Search Settings,” choose “Do track Site Search.”

search site settings crazyegg

Image source: CrazyEgg

Find out what you should enter into the “Query parameter.” Sometimes, this can be the letter “q” or “s.” Do this by visiting your site and doing a search. Check the URL for the query parameter that should come after “?”

For example, if you try to search the term “blogging” on the website https://mygreatwebsite101.com, the URL will become https://mygreatwebsite101.com/?s=blogging

What comes after “?” is your query parameter.

You’ll be able to track the terms people use to search your site by heading over to Google Analytics’ Behavior>Site Search>Search Terms.

Use Google Webmaster Tools

While Google Webmaster Tools isn’t as comprehensive and detailed as Google Analytics, it provides immense value when it comes to uncovering (not provided) data.

Not only that, Webmaster Tools shows you the click through rate of these search terms from Google search.

To get started, all you need to do is click on Search Queries under Traffic in your dashboard.

Once you’re in this section of Webmaster Tools, what you will see is a graph and a list of your site’s keywords with their corresponding clicks and impressions.

Take note that this feature on Google Webmaster has a limitation: It only shows you data taken from within 90 days or 3 months. Make sure that you check your account on a monthly basis and download and save this data.

If you’re wondering whether you can get keyword searches from Google encrypted search, the answer is yes.

Find Google’s related searches

Each time you look for topics on Google by typing keywords into Google’s search box, Google shows you related searches at the bottom of its search results.

search related to cat food

For example, if I type in the search terms “cat food tips,” Google recommends popular searches that are related to my topic of interest. There is a huge chance that using these words for my future topics allows more online searchers to find me.

Even though related searches do not directly reveal (not provided) keywords, these matched queries help you overcome the limited data you have so you can improve your content.

Use Google Trends

Google Trends is an underused tool that boosts your marketing opportunities by presenting you minute-by-minute data on keywords or topics that are rising in popularity.

It helps you keep tabs on terms that immediately spike in different geographical locations, thereby amplifying your business’ reach.

Let’s say that you own a pizza parlor and are looking to expand your reach. Using Google Trends, you can examine prospective areas in your country to know whether the people there are interested in pizza.

Or, another way to use Google Trends is to track the mentions of your brand competitors. If you find that your competition seems to perform well in a particular state, this tells you that you have a lot of improvements to make.

If in case you find out that you’re getting an enormous amount of traffic and you think that this is because of a “newsworthy” topic, you can confirm it on Google Trends. This is very beneficial if most of your data on Analytics is (not provided).

Use Google’s autocomplete to uncover potential keywords in Google Keyword Planner

Google helps you get automatic suggestions on the content you’re trying to look for through its search predictions or Autocomplete. The search engine makes these keyword suggestions based on what others are searching and how often they do it.

For instance, if I type in the search term “bodybuilding,” Google automatically predicts the topic I’m trying to search articles or products on.

bodybuilding autocomplete

Now, what does using Google’s autocomplete have to do with the Google Keyword Planner? As you may have already noticed, sometimes Keyword Planner does not return any keyword ideas other than the one you initially entered.

Regardless of whether or not Google is hiding keyword ideas from you on Keyword Planner, one way to get over this is to grab one of Google’s Autocomplete phrases on your keyword and enter them into the Keyword Planner Tool. You will then know if the competition of your keyword phrase is high or low.

Wrapping  it up

Answering the question, “What search terms or keywords lead people to my business website?” isn’t as easy as it seems for a lot of marketers.

People continue to be frustrated by not being able to access most of their keyword data on Google Analytics. Having complete data matters so much because it’s what you rely on to boost the performance of your business.

In response to the (not provided) dilemma, some website owners abandon the keyword obsession and instead focus on creating content they believe is relevant and interesting.

Put in mind that unless you can afford to lose your best customers to your competition, you must have full knowledge of your target audience’s immediate needs which are revealed through keywords.

Hopefully, the seven strategies I have shared here on uncovering (not provided) data will help you unlock more growth opportunities. Good luck!