Google Analytics And Your Blocked Keywords

About two weeks ago I read a post by our buddy Darnell Jackson of titled Is Google Blogger Blocking? His premise was that if you look at your Google Analytics and check to see what keywords you’re being found for that your highest number will be blocked and thus Google’s withholding critical information all of us who do SEO work or try to optimize our content for certain words and phrases can’t fully get the job done. He also sees it as a monetary thing of sorts, and he points to the reality that you could be number one for your search term but if someone ponies up the bucks they’ll actually show up ahead of you.

Bank of America security trying to prevent me from taking a photo during the Iraq war protest
Steve Rhodes via Compfight

It’s a post that should be read, and I did leave a comment on it. However, I was getting ready to go out of town for a conference and didn’t have time to really look at it. That’s what this post is about, and it’s not pretty. I agree with Darnell on a lot of it, but I’m not so sure about the money side of it all; here’s my thoughts and research.

I decided to scan the net to see what others were saying about this. I came across many articles for when this first started occurring. What Google determined to do was not show searches for people who were signed into their Google account. They would count the search, but wouldn’t reveal what terms were being searched for. Matt Cutts also stated at the time that this figure would end up being a single digit percentage, which was his way of saying that this information wouldn’t be all that pertinent to us anyway.

You know I had to check that. I went into Analytics and looked at this blog. The terminology Analytics uses is “not provided“, and the percentage of terms it accounts for… 78%! I’m thinking that doesn’t look like a single digit percentage to me. I had to look at my other blogs. My business blog: 85%. My local blog: 55%. My finance blog: 92%. My SEO blog: 74%.

Kind of staggering isn’t it? The remaining search terms make absolutely no sense; there’s nothing one can do with most of them in knowing what to try to work on.

I wondered if it only had this type of effect on blogs, although I was betting the answer would be no. My thinking was that it’s possible that because there’s so much content on blogs when compared to regular websites that maybe the figures would skew differently. The numbers? Main business site: 51%. Secondary business site: 56%. Medical billing site: 34%. Anti-smoking site: 69%. Sales/marketing site: 51%.

This indicates that overall the numbers are lower with regular websites, but they’re still quite punitive aren’t they? Do you think this is helpful at all? What’s the point of having something called Analytics if you can’t get any Analytics? For that matter, why hide search terms when you’re not going to identify the person whose using those terms?

On this front I totally agree with Darnell. It’s unfair and illogical and I’m surprised more people aren’t up in arms about this. Actually that’s not quite true; lots of people wrote about it when it first occurred, but the numbers were much lower then. There are some folks who are writing about it now along with Darnell and myself, such as this article from Website Magazine, but it’s hard to find new stuff. It seems that most SEO folks have resolved to live with it or find another way around it. I have to admit I haven’t paid much attention because I use a Firefox plugin called Rank Checker & type in search terms I’m trying to rank well for on many websites.

Where I don’t agree with Darnell as much is that it’s about money. People have always been able to pay their way to the top, and that hasn’t changed one bit. Instead, what I believe is that Google is working harder on authorship and search related to people we know when we’re signed in.

Over the past couple of years Google seems to have been pushing for “relationship marketing“, if you will, and one of the things I’ve talked about is how you can search for something and see things people you know have either written or recommended in some way before almost anything else. I’m adding the word “marketing” because I think their initial intention was that people would review restaurants and stores and then Google could find ways of contacting those stores, showing them the numbers, and then getting them to pay for extra advertising.

At this point I doubt it’s working quite that way, but I think that’s where they’re going, and though it touches upon money, I think it’s more about relationships, at least right now.

Overall I don’t like it, but other than use something like I’m using there’s little anyone can do about it. Have you checked your Analytics lately? Are some of you using other programs to check statistics with?

24 thoughts on “Google Analytics And Your Blocked Keywords”

  1. Excellent point Mitch, thanks for the mention appreciate it.

    It’s good to see I’m not the only one being affected by this (not provided) phenomenon.

    Google’s making a HUGE mistake with this just like their Easter day pic.

    Remember I called the decline of Apple last year when everyone was saying they were the best company in the history of Earth?

    Don’t miss what I said about $GOOG.

    1. Darnell, you got me thinking more about it and that’s what reading other blogs can do for us. I’m with you in thinking the Big G is erring here, but there’s little we can do until another search company makes some serious headway into the market & offers its own analytics.

  2. There is always someone raising a fuss about Google’s privacy, and this is one way that Google is responding to those objections. Before October of 2011, when users searched a query through Google, webmasters could track it in their Analytics accounts.

    This is a problem for people actively keeping track of their analytics, who are trying to find ways to better optimize their websites. If you don’t look at your website analytics, the (not provided) keywords aren’t going to be an issue for you.
    Great post

    1. This is one of those times when the privacy issue was stupid because no one ever knew the people actually visiting their site or looking them up on Google. It’s a mess as it is.

  3. Hi,

    I found this whilst researching the same subject. I am not sure that I see the demise of Google, I think a lot of recent updates have been reasonably positive but the Blogger Blocking thing has got me thinking!

      1. I’m not going quite that far Ansh. The company has offered us a lot of things that have been beneficial. I just wish that it didn’t seem like they were the only game in town so often; a bit of competition might make them more customer friendly.

  4. I’ve noticed it too Mitch but I’ve also been using Bing webmaster tools and gathering other info. I think it’s about the money, you must pay your way to the top in most cases which is very sad. I hope something changes in that respect.

    1. Lisa, you’re probably right about the money part, although I can’t see it right now for 100% of what’s going on. I know that what they initially said and the reality isn’t true and that’s disturbing.

  5. On this front I totally agree with Darnell. It’s unfair and illogical and I’m surprised more people aren’t up in arms about this.

    I noticed this sometime last year but it slipped off my radar I guess because this kind of stuff is never at the top of my list of things to focus on. Thanks for linking to Darnell’s article. I get a kick out of people telling it like it is.

    Money? Really, I’m inclined to agree that it is, indeed, about money. The number of “sponsored results” at the top of the results returned for what “we search for” continues to increase. Those same results are replete with almost irrelevant links, carrying the names of big brands. And the ads in Gmail? They now entirely surround the message.

    1. Great seeing you Vernessa. The thing is those sponsored ads at the top have always been there, and for most people (not me) the ads on the side of Google searches have always been there as well. I can’t get my mind around the money angle because of that. However, I do know I don’t like it one bit.

  6. Wow, I am back, Mitch! Well, good point, but it isn’t a secret for anybody that GA is not the most accurate tool. That’s why you have your server logs. “Not provided results” means results that comes from custom search or search box that is tight up with AdSense. Generally the a bit bigger picture comes from combination of both GA and Webmaster Tools, but complete vision comes only when you combine this with server logs for example AWStats. There is much more that GA doesn’t show you and this is for a good reason. I wrote an article on this topic a year ago, it was published at some of the top SEO portals and suddenly after a month somebody decided to put it down for some reason.

    1. Welcome back Carl. I don’t know AWStats; is that something one downloads or should my hosting company have something like that? Seems my host doesn’t give up that information all that easily either. lol Anyway, with Google being the big dog one would have thought that seeing what was happening in their realm would be a big deal; now it’s not so much unfortunately.

  7. This made me think of something else. When you said “Matt Cutts also stated at the time that this figure would end up being a single digit percentage”, it reminded me of why I no longer listen to Matt and his videos.

    I was watching a Matt video comparing blogger blogs to WordPress blogs when it comes to search engine love. Any real blogger knows the answer to this but the video is almost a comedy as he tries to make blogger not look so bad.

    Anyway I am starting to see that a lot of what Google wants from us and what Google tells us is only to suit them. I am not sure what to believe any longer.

    1. Welcome Mitz. I know what you mean because they own Blogger but most of them don’t use it as their own blogging platform. Just today they announced that they’re ending the Google Affiliate Network, from which I’ve made almost no money in 4 years or so, yet even last week they were adding new advertisers. Some of the moves make no sense.

  8. Hey Mitch

    Wow, I’d never even thought about this before but you’re right, not provided keywords on my site are at 65%. That’s terrible.

    I get most of my search engine traffic through Google so the Bing Webmaster tool isn’t going to help me so much.

    I’m guessing there’s not much we can do about it in any case?

    1. I’m not sure Tim. Carl mentioned something in his comment about AWStats, which I’d never heard of, and I want to see what that’s all about. Otherwise you might be right; what a shame…

  9. i read your comments policy after writing and submitting my comment. my mistake. 🙁

    I can’t write same thing again but just wanted to let you know that i liked name of your blog as i also believe in ‘sharing is caring’ mantra. i read many posts on this subject and i must say your post is one of the best post on google analytics and blocked keywords. good job.

  10. Thanks for this info Mitch. I use GA and statcounter for analyzing where my traffic is coming from.

    How long they visit, page visits, exits, etc…

    Some of the results that I have noticed on my statcounter account have been (Encrypted Search) along with an explanation: Google deliberately strips out keyword search information for logged in users.

    Wow, why would they do that? I think it boils down to money. I believe the average Joe, mom and pop sites are getting pushed further down the line.

    1. Paul, they’ve given the official view but I’m really not sure overall. I know I don’t like it but there’s little that can be done other than using the plugin I recommended.

  11. Google is definitely showing a big decline in quality. The latest version of Analytics is garbage, huge amount of it’s search traffic is “Not Provided”, traffic from Apple devices is showing up as direct and to top things off many of their search results show multiple listings from the one domain thus making them virtually useless. Agree with Mitch, be interesting to see whats happening to their market share

    1. I hadn’t thought about it as a decline Stuart but I can easily see how you’d view it that way. I think they were very ambitious when money seemed like it was unlimited and now that some things haven’t worked they’ve started backing away while figuring out other ways to get on our nerves after getting us to sign up for stuff. I got an email today saying that Google’s starting another service for Analytics and my mind says “heck, they messed up the one they already have” so I certainly won’t be an early adopter in any way.

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