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Confused by Missing Keywords in Google Analytics?
Keywords are a great tool for diagnosing the health of your website traffic and informing your digital marketing strategy, regardless of whether those keywords are drawn from organic search, paid search, or your own internal site search.
Reviewing keyword sections under organic search and paid search, you may have run across two unusual keywords: (not set) and (not provided). For many of you, these may even be your most popular keywords - by far.
Despite what you may be thinking, your customers aren't going to search engines and typing in the exact words "(not set)" or "(not provided)," parentheses and all! Google made an update in 2011 that replaced our valuable keyword insights with these pesky terms.
How are these specific keywords sending visitors to your site when you've done nothing to attract them? Let's take a closer look.
Missing Keywords Example
To see an example, navigate in Google Analytics to the Acquisition report in the left sidebar, then All Traffic, Source Medium, and Keyword report. You'll see (not set) and (not provided) featured prominently, amounting to almost 97% of all our search traffic.
(Not set) in Google Analytics
The keyword (not set) simply identifies traffic that doesn't arrive via a particular keyword and hence may not come via any search at all.
This is generally due to a session with no page or screen view level hits included, or being misdirected from email, referral sites, Google Images, or others.
(Not provided) in Google Analytics
The keyword (not provided) describes organic searches that are hidden from your view, to provide a measure of privacy for users.
In 2011, Google began encrypting results from SSL searches (secure searches from users who are logged in to their Google Accounts or using the Firefox search bar) to protect the privacy of the searcher. Google's explanation for the change:
"As search becomes an increasingly customized experience, we recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver... This change encrypts your search queries and Google's results page. This is especially important when you're using an unsecured Internet connection, such as a WiFi hotspot in an Internet cafe."
Put simply, any keywords searched organically by users who are logged into their Google Accounts (Gmail, Calendar, Apps, etc) will show up in your Analytics reports as (not provided), since their content is being withheld by the search giant itself.
The keyword's Medium will still be accurately reported as "organic" search, but the actual keyword text will no longer be visible to you. If this sounds big, it is. While Google initially predicted this change would only affect 10% of queries, companies reported seeing shifts of more than 50%!
While this doesn't affect paid search efforts, losing organic keyword data is a substantial change, making marketing activity more difficult.
However, marketers have come up with a few workarounds that can help, by analyzing things like landing page in conjunction with the (not provided) keywords that direct users there. As the first webpage a visitor lands on, before hopefully exploring additional parts of your website, landing page data is a good indicator of search intent.
We hope this helps clear up any questions you may have about the appearance of (not set) and (not provided) in your keyword lists! Since these wonâ€™t be disappearing any time soon, it's helpful to know what you can and cannot discount in your analysis.
Remember, if you want to remove these from the list so you can get a better look at the content of actual keywords, you can always exclude multiple keywords. Don't discount these unidentified keywords in your traffic analyses, however - after all, you earned those visits fair and square!