The Increase of “(not provided)” in Google Analytics
Over the past couple of years, many businesses have observed an increase in “(not provided)” results when using analytics. This is seen when trying to identify which search terms visitors use on Google to discover their websites. Initially, this might have appeared as a minor hiccup, but for some, it hinted at a more significant change on the horizon.
Google’s Shift to Secure Search
A little history; Google introduced secure search as the default for users logged into their Google accounts. This feature was then expanded to include popular web browsers like Firefox and Chrome. Recently, this secure search has become the standard for all Google users, irrespective of the browser they use, the device they’re on, or whether they’re signed into a Google account.
The Motive Behind Encrypted Search
There’s been speculation about Google’s reasons for this move, especially in the wake of controversies like the NSA scandal. Some believe that this is a strategic move by Google to encourage businesses to invest in their Adwords campaigns. This is because, interestingly, keyword data remains accessible to those who utilise Adwords. To put this into perspective, Adwords, Google’s pay-per-click platform, generated a whopping $42.5 billion in advertising revenue in a single year.
The loophole left in for advertisers has suggested to many marketers that the “privacy” argument is also a convenient cover for Google to claw back some visibility on how publishers get found by Google, perhaps to boost its ad sales. (Danny Sullivan CNET https://www.cnet.com/culture/how-google-could-have-made-the-web-secure-and-failed-again/).
Impact of ‘not provided’ on Businesses
Historically, Google searches have been instrumental for businesses to understand how to draw visitors to their sites. By knowing what people are searching for, businesses could tailor their content and strategies accordingly. With the rise of the ‘not provided’ status, this direct insight has become limited. However, it’s important for businesses to remember the core principle of SEO and online marketing: delivering relevant and valuable content to their audience. This remains the key to growth and success.
Will Google Reconsider?
The global search marketing community has raised numerous questions regarding this policy change. As of now, Google hasn’t provided any clear answers or shown signs of revisiting this decision.