All I want for Christmas is my keywords back

Ian Lurie

I’d promised myself I’d stop ranting about Google’s ongoing analytics assassination. But I checked my data for this blog, today, and I’m missing 19.5% of my keyword data:

keyword assassination
20% of my keywords are not provided?!!!!!!

Google. What. The. Hell.

I know, I know: I’m supposed to use Google Webmaster Tools to look at search queries.

So, I toddle over there and take a peek:

google webmaster tools keyword list
The query list in Google Webmaster Tools

Huh. No use data. No time-on-site. Certainly no way to connect these to conversions. I can do the math, per Unilyzer’s helpful post, but that’s not exactly accurate.

Time to cut the crap

You guys at the big G are supposed to be all about ‘a better online user experience.’

News flash: I CAN’T PROVIDE THAT EXPERIENCE IF I HAVE NO F–KING IDEA HOW PEOPLE FIND ME. If I look at my data, and I can’t figure out:

  • Where 20% of my organic visitors come from;
  • What they do when they get to my site;
  • Or how well they like the site.

…I’m kind of hamstrung. I can’t improve. Or at least, I can’t improve as much.

No, your half-assed Google Webmaster reports don’t help. And no, I’m not going to spend $10,000 a month on PPC test campaigns for the blog that earns me $400/month in ad revenue.

You’re undercutting the very things you claim to support and enable: Great content, and all the people who put it out on the web.

I’m starting to really hate you

Google, do you really want me to hate you?

‘Cause things are certainly going that way. You’re close to becoming one more deceptive advertising outlet—hiding data from me with one hand while asking for more money with the other.

Blekko is looking better and better.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. This is just the beginning of Google’s attempt to kill the SEO industry. Google doesn’t make money off of SEOs, so why give them data they need? … And what happens when they remove keywords from ALL Google searches – not just logged in users?
    Plus, G is running their own PPC ads for searches with “SEO” as a keyword. The ads promote AdWords instead of SEO. Aaron Wall found an ad title “Forget about SEO. To be visible in Google today, try Adwords”.
    I don’t believe these two examples are merely coincidence. Pretty clear where G is headed.

    1. Do not be defeatist, I do not think that Google will never eliminate organic search results. If the results were just the result of campaigns to pay, a lot of users probably would switch to another search engine, to display data collected according to a principle of meritocracy.

  2. I’ve got to agree that there’s both hypocrisy and contradiction between what Google preach and what they practice.
    However, I checked my (not provided) this morning and analytics reports 3.54% for the last month. I’m a uk based ecommerce site and not an east coast based seo agency.

  3. love it – spot on post
    as for adwords I am finding the new analytics almost unusable for analysing adwords data as it appears impossible to drill down!! (or maybe its me)
    IMO they are losing the plot

  4. What is googles motto? Only do good or something like that. Maybe they should go back to that. I loved google because they seemed to promote good content. I guess not anymore!

  5. I too share this frustration. Google wants great, new fresh content on websites. It kind of helps to know what people are searching for when they come to your site, so that way you know what content to provide. This makes it very hard when this information is hidden from us.

  6. Hey this is NOT a new thing. Google has been trying to kill off the SEO industry for quite a while now. Remember they killed off rankings as a meaningful metric when they forced personalized results on us all. They are hell bent on killing off SEO and small businesses at the expense of the big brands and their advertising cash cow.

  7. Amen to this post. Honestly I’ve been feeling this way since it was first announced. What’s worse is people would refute me and say “well it’s not that much data”. Well now it’s increasing more and more and the geniuses that refuted my opinion forgot to realize that overtime the (not provided) is basically taking data from EVERY keyword query more or less, so this in time will equal to the majority of the queries jumbled together in a hodge-podge of missing data. If you hide 10% from 500 different keyword queries (of varying amounts), that’s a LOT of data that you aren’t seeing in the grand scheme of things. And that’s just an estimated number….how many people are signed into Google Plus, Gmail, AdWords, Google Music while searching? Increasing numbers I’m sure.
    At any rate, I too find the issue frustrating and one has to stand in AWE of the hypocrisy of it; in the name of “safety” yet available for paid searchers….there’s nothing unsafe about any data from a query as far as I can tell and that being said if it were, I could pay some money and get the “unsafe” info I need anyway. Give me a break.
    Sorry I would like to rant with you. Let’s form a coalition.

  8. Great post and I share your frustrations. We were able to figure out which keyword was “not provided” in GA for our second top-ranking search query. It wasn’t too hard to uncover but still, so annoying to even have to waste time figuring it out in the first place!

  9. Hey!
    Just a little hint from this RFC 2616 right here:
    Clients SHOULD NOT include a Referer header field in a (non-secure)
    HTTP request if the referring page was transferred with a secure
    So it shouldnt be possible at all, to get a referer from , though its kind of a very good information.

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