There's a new keyword in town. It's called "Not Provided" and its showing up in Google Analytics accounts everywhere. "Not Provided" means Google is blocking data from you.
We really like Google Analytics. We use it all the time. We recommend that our web design clients use it all the time. Why? Because it provides useful results - EXCEPT in the case of "(not provided)."
Say you want to find out what keywords are driving search traffic to your website, that's useful information. Who wouldn't want that kind of information? So you navigate through Google Analytics and go to Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic, and chances are, you'll find the keyword: (not provided). It's frustrating that these two words now take the place of some very important organic search term information. In our case, it is now our "top organic search term." And it's not a good thing because (not provided) is blocking access to data we once had.
Why (not provided) results?
Quite simply, (not provided) references any search made by a Google user who is logged in at the time of the search. In fact, as you may have noticed, since mid-October 2011, when you now go to Google, the URL bar reads https://google.com, indicating that it is a secure site. Officially Google cites user privacy, especially "signed in" user privacy, as the reason for the limited data access.
Here's Google's official announcement of the new policy posted October 18th, 2012.
When Google started securing searches made by users, they expected it to only affect about 10% of all searches. However, many believe and have experienced much higher percentage than that. In our case, Back40design.com analytics reflect a 21.13% of visits are marked (not provided). Since the day the change was made to January 1st, a little over 3 months, we are not able to access 20% of our data. That's a lot in SEO terms we can't access anymore. 20% is a lot of anything.
(not set) vs. (not provided)
Another frustrating and common occurrence in Google Analytics is the result (not set). This is different than (not provided). The result (not set) denotes that there were no keywords to capture. Frustrating, but at least it's not a result of blocking or hiding the data from users.
What can you do about it?
Not much. It's Google. But here's something that can help. If you want to see how people are getting to your landing pages (usually your Home page, which is kind of shorthand for your website), go to: Content > Site Content > Landing Pages then click any landing page. From the little toolbar directly above it click the menu next to "Secondary dimension" then Traffic Sources > Keyword. The keyword results for your landing pages should give you a good idea of your most important - and less important keywords.
Here's a link to a more sophisticated "hack" to get some of that blocked data back.
Remember, even if you have a high (not provided) number, users are still finding your website. Keep up with your SEO campaign, keep updating your site, writing blogs, promoting through social media, and anything else you do. The (not provided) keyword information represents BLOCKED data, not NO data.