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Why Not To Care About Google (Not Provided) Keywords

By | September 27, 2013

not provided“Not provided” getting bigger? No worries! It’s time to celebrate!

The share of infamous “not provided” organic keyword traffic in Google Analytics is increasing, to the tune of nearly 75% as of mid-September, as noted by the website Not Provided Count, which tracks the average percentage of withheld keyword data across 60 websites. You may have heard this week that Google is making more searches secure, which is increasing the percentage of keyword data in Google Analytics displaying as “(not provided).”

So, why are we at Fathom celebrating? You’ve heard of SEOMoz, right? There’s a reason they’re now called “Moz.” And years ago, Fathom itself used to be called “Fathom SEO.” There’s a reason for that change, too: We do much more (and our customers demand much more) than SEO, both in our marketing activities and our philosophy. Furthermore, even if your sole marketing method were SEO, you’d still be missing the boat by focusing exclusively on keywords, because search is becoming more contextual. (Update 9/30: Also see Fathom’s Kal Fattah on the subject of SEO and contextual queries.)

All that being said, if you’re still anxious and really want to see your keyword data, we’ve got some suggestions for you:

  1. Keep calm. This data has been slowly disappearing from Google Analytics for 2 years.
  2. Obtain keyword data from other sources, e.g., Google AdWords (no ad buying required) and/or Google Webmaster Tools, along with numerous third-party tools.
  3. Tie your Google Webmaster Tools account to Google AdWords for expanded keyword data archiving.
  4. Again, remember that successful marketing is about so much more than keywords. Achieving your business goals requires attention to customers throughout the entire purchase cycle and from numerous sources. Are you creating value for them across your Web properties? Is your content invaluable? Is your website usable? Are you practicing smart engagement strategies?

On top of all this, as if Google didn’t give the business and marketing worlds enough to talk about in the past week, it announced an algorithm update (on its 15th anniversary) yesterday: “Hummingbird” is here. It promises to make complex searches easier with comparisons and filters in its Knowledge Graph.

Stay cool
Google updates aside, you need to keep creating value for your customers. This was true 15 years ago, and it will be true 15 years from now. Don’t let Google run your business.

1 Comment


About Paul Richlovsky

Paul brings a writing and teaching background to his marketing career, where he's been happily active since 2006. After spending his early years serving clients as a Web copywriter and account manager, he currently leads Fathom's own content strategy in collaboration with sales, marketing and others across the company. He is an enthusiastic marketing automation practitioner and active member of the Cleveland Marketo User Group. He also serves as editorial director of Fathom's website and blog and has written/edited multiple guides on marketing, including for audiences in healthcare, higher education, financial services, retail and manufacturing. He previously was lead blogger and managing editor for, a resource for individuals interested in career-focused education. With a BA in English from the College of Wooster, he is also the author of a collection of poetry, "Under the Lunar Neon." He is particularly interested in usability, readability, ballroom dancing, bachata, racquet sports, and romping with his niece and nephews.


  • Adam Powell

    I welcome the change, although I haven’t seen any big changes to Google SERPs, and search is so long-tail that focusing on specific words and phrases has always been a bit maddening. Regardless, I posted some thoughts on (with references) the topic and possible ways to address the lack of organic referral data in a blog post a couple days ago:

    Glad to see another voice of reason :)

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