5 Ways to Beat “Not Provided”

Changes last month to Google AdWords have made performance reporting for SEO professionals and marketers more difficult as a new “not provided” description makes the raw data that was previously available to provide measureable SEO results unavailable.

As a background, the “not provided” message has been around since 2011, when Google began redirecting users to a secure page for search activity, meaning that all search referring data that tools were able to use to understand keywords were blocked to those not logged into the secure account. However, at that time only a small percentage of users were affected.

Last month, Google made additional changes that encrypted search activity in a new way. The new encryption means that any user looking for organic keyword information – not pertaining to paid AdWords accounts – are automatically redirected to an SSL encrypted search, making information harder than ever to come by.

There are ways to beat the “not provided message,” but creativity is needed. Below are 5 ideas.

  1. Rethink Your Strategy to Start

While the “not provided” message is frustrating, in marketing, all things must change. Your campaign measurement is no different. However, since the tools have changed, the way you approach online SEO still may need to change as well.

Rethink using AdWords, and study PPC tools and applications to track your campaigns. By investing in PPC up front, you’ll be able to modify your approach down the road while cutting down on your PPC budget.

  1. Use PPC Data

Use the data you receive from your PPC campaigns heavily. Look for trends. Follow what campaigns have had the most success and which outside events are associated with them. Look at conversion rates and save every report you can.

Identify your top performing PPC landing pages when looking at ways to create new pages, pull in ranking data and create a new, organic strategy based on that information.

  1. Remember that “Not Provided” Still Matters

“Not provided” doesn’t mean “no one is visiting.” It means someone using an organic search term is coming to your site. That someone may be a thousand dollar customer that is worth your time. Look for times when your “not provided” stats jump. Think of campaigns, blogs and other outreach that coincide with the data.

  1. Use New Metrics

Even with the most recent changes to Google, certain metrics and trend information pieces are still available. Use them regularly. They include:

  • Overall Organic Search Traffic by Engine

  • Total Conversions from Organic Traffic/By URL

  • Search Rankings by Page Tags/Types (for example, if your title tag indicates “stocks” you might assume that someone searched that keyword)

  • Search Rankings for Critical Terms

  • Search Rankings by Keyword Tag

These terms are still important for your overall organic strategy.

  1. Study Non-Google Data

Other search engines still provide organic information. While not as many of your clients and potential clients are likely to be using these programs, the information they provide could still be helpful. Check out URL-level information and pay attention to the terms that bring in traffic, this could translate to Google search terms.

“Not provided” doesn’t mean that all is lost. When done properly, organic SEO is just as important and potentially successful as ever. Gather the information you can and formulate a new plan for going forward.