Google tackles "not provided" increase

On its initial rollout in 2010 Google indicated that 'not provided' would typically affect less than 10% of search queries, however, this has turned out to be an inaccurate forecast. Since it came into effect, 'not provided' levels have consistently increased.

On its initial rollout in 2010 Google indicated that 'not provided' would typically affect less than 10% of search queries, however, this has turned out to be an inaccurate forecast. Since it came into effect, 'not provided' levels have consistently increased. Recently, many webmasters have reported a surge in 'not provided', with levels surpassing 40% and above on many sites across a variety of niches. This is happening for a range of reasons, some of which are outlined in this post. Against this background, Google has moved to try and provide more data through its Webmaster Tools platform.

Google will extend the 'Top Search Queries' data available in Webmaster Tools from 90 Days to One Year, as well as providing a combined paid and organic query report in AdWords for linked accounts, where webmasters can see how their organic results are performing relative to their paid listings.

Google also announced that it will be making more link data made available through Webmaster Tools. In their words:

"…….. we're improving how we select these backlinks to give sites a fuller picture of their backlink profile. The most significant improvement you'll see is that most of the links are now sampled uniformly from the full spectrum of backlinks rather than alphabetically. You're also more likely to get example links from different top-level domains (TLDs) as well as from different domain names. The new links you see will still be sorted alphabetically."

Whilst any increases in keyword data provided will be welcomed by webmasters, and can be helpful in terms of (for example) monitoring ranking trends or looking for areas to develop content, crucially, it lacks any financial insight.

For businesses this is one of the most critical aspects of the loss of keyword data through 'not provided'. Webmasters now lack a clear picture as to what keywords are delivering conversions for their websites, and how they can improve their sites to take advantage of this. Instead, as this data is now obscured, there is now only a snapshot true website performance available.