Providing “Not Provided” – How You Can Still See Search Referral Data

Not Provided

You’ve seen the headlines. Google is rolling out secure search for everyone. Marketers shouldn’t fear this change though; this is just another step towards progress in the ever-changing world of search. Instead of burying ourselves in organic keyword lists, we must start taking a more holistic approach to search marketing and begin taking steps towards seamlessly combining paid and organic search data. With developing products and concepts like Google Now and One Microsoft, the future of search is thrilling. Content strategies and social marketing must complement and integrate with every aspect of search; this is only the beginning of the next chapter of search in which keywords are only a small part of the puzzle.

Two years ago Google started encrypting their data by defaulting any search by a user signed into Google to Secure Sockets Layer, more commonly known as SSL. Expecting to lose around 10% of search referral data, some digital marketers were upset but accepting and understanding. After all, they could still get a general idea of how users were getting to their site and if a user is signed into Google then encrypting via SSL makes sense for privacy reasons. Releasing a statement on their blog, it was hard to argue with the logic:

“As search becomes an increasingly customized experience, we recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver. As a result, we’re enhancing our default search experience for signed-in users.”

After Google made the change, a precedent was set and less than a year after Google made the first change, Firefox released a version of their browser that defaulted to Google’s secure search. A few months after that, Safari in iOS 6 began using Google’s secure search. And a few months after that, the latest release of Chrome began encrypting all searches submitted via its omnibox. All of these changes contributed to the steadily increasing percentage of search referral data that was being shown as “not provided.”

Not Provided

With privacy becoming increasingly important, it should be no surprise that this move was made. Not only is a niche being carved out for privacy-focused products, Google has always placed a high emphasis on improving the security of their searches. Their awareness of this rising consumer value is evidenced by the statement they released in the wake of the change:

“We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year. We’re now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in.”

Fortunately, there are still ways for you to understand search referral data. By using carefully orchestrated Google AdWords campaigns in concert with Compete PRO, you will have access to both organic and paid search referrals. In a search environment that will soon be dominated by encrypted search, not only will this put you ahead of the competition, but it will continually offer you insights into how customers are getting to your site and what you should focus your efforts on optimizing.

How can you still see your organic search referral data with 100% “Not Provided”

With Compete PRO, not only can you see the search volume that a certain search term brings to your site, you can see other search-related data as well:

  • Keyword & Referral Share: Obviously the most important and the most valuable, the actual search queries (and the share of the total search referral visits that each query makes up) that are bringing visitors to your site.
  • Paid & Natural Share: For each search term, you can see how much of the traffic is natural and how much is paid. If you are bidding on the terms then you probably already have a good idea of these numbers already. However, this data can prove to be invaluable when looking at your competitors.
  • Time Index: Along with search referral share and paid/natural share, we also offer two different time indexes for each search term. The first, Average Time Index, is an engagement metric found in Site and Category Search Referral Reports. This metric is indexed to 100, with 100 representing the keyword term that resulted in the most average time per visit being spent on the site. The other metric, Total Time Index, is also indexed to 100, with 100 representing the keyword term that resulted in the most total time spent on the site.
  • Search Insights: Compete PRO also offers seven different search insights which are preset filter configurations based on common data use cases for Search marketing. They call out valuable insights in the data by automatically setting the filters to predefined ranges, reducing the noise in large data sets. You can see the following search insights within Compete PRO: Highly engaging keywords, high traffic keywords, paid keywords, natural keywords, engaging long tail keywords, enthusiast keywords, and long tail keywords.

Not only are all of these data sets crucial to have for your own site, using Compete PRO also allows you to gather data from your competitors’ sites as well. This information was valuable before, but now that the day “Not Provided” makes up 100% of your competitors’ search referral data is right around the corner, and the only way to see it is through Compete PRO, it is invaluable. Not convinced? Start your Compete PRO subscription today or contact us if you have any questions.

If you want more advanced keyword analysis features, check out Ascend, which provides marketers with visibility into crucial data on the search engine results page (SERP) to help reduce overall spend, pinpoint and mitigate competitive exposure, optimize share of voice, and align search with the shoppers path-to-purchase.

About Jared DeLuca:
Jared is currently the Digital Marketing Manager at Millward Brown Digital. He is a graduate of Northeastern University, having achieved his B.A. in Communication Studies. If you like what you read, you can connect with him on Google+, Twitter, or on LinkedIn.