Google Keyword(Not Provided): High Double Digit Percent

Most Organic Search Data is Now Hidden

Over the past couple years since its launch, Google's keyword (not provided) has received quite a bit of exposure, with people discussing all sorts of tips on estimating its impact & finding alternate sources of data (like competitive research tools & webmaster tools).

What hasn't received anywhere near enough exposure (and should be discussed daily) is that the sole purpose of the change was anti-competitive abuse from the market monopoly in search.

The site which provided a count for (not provided) recently displayed over 40% of queries as (not provided), but that percentage didn't include the large percent of mobile search users that were showing no referrals at all & were showing up as direct website visitors. On July 30, Google started showing referrals for many of those mobile searchers, using keyword (not provided).

According to research by RKG, mobile click prices are nearly 60% of desktop click prices, while mobile search click values are only 22% of desktop click prices. Until Google launched enhanced AdWords campaigns they understated the size of mobile search by showing many mobile searchers as direct visitors. But now that AdWords advertisers were opted into mobile ads (and have to go through some tricky hoops to figure out how to disable it), Google has every incentive to promote what a big growth channel mobile search is for their business.

Looking at the analytics data for some non-SEO websites over the past 4 days I get Google referring an average of 86% of the 26,233 search visitors, with 13,413 being displayed as keyword (not provided).

Hiding The Value of SEO

Google is not only hiding half of their own keyword referral data, but they are hiding so much more than half that even when you mix in Bing and Yahoo! you still get over 50% of the total hidden.

Google's 86% of the 26,233 searches is 22,560 searches.

Keyword (not provided) being shown for 13,413 is 59% of 22,560. That means Google is hiding at least 59% of the keyword data for organic search. While they are passing a significant share of mobile search referrers, there is still a decent chunk that is not accounted for in the change this past week.

Not passing keywords is just another way for Google to increase the perceived risk & friction of SEO, while making SEO seem less necessary, which has been part of "the plan" for years now.

Buy AdWords ads and the data gets sent. Rank organically and most the data is hidden.

When one digs into keyword referral data & ad blocking, there is a bad odor emitting from the GooglePlex.

Subsidizing Scammers Ripping People Off

A number of the low end "solutions" providers scamming small businesses looking for SEO are taking advantage of the opportunity that keyword (not provided) offers them. A buddy of mine took over SEO for a site that had showed absolutely zero sales growth after a year of 15% monthly increase in search traffic. Looking at the on-site changes, the prior "optimizers" did nothing over the time period. Looking at the backlinks, nothing there either.

So what happened?

Well, when keyword data isn't shown, it is pretty easy for someone to run a clickbot to show keyword (not provided) Google visitors & claim that they were "doing SEO."

And searchers looking for SEO will see those same scammers selling bogus solutions in AdWords. Since they are selling a non-product / non-service, their margins are pretty high. Endorsed by Google as the best, they must be good.

Or something like that:

Google does prefer some types of SEO over others, but their preference isn’t cast along the black/white divide you imagine. It has nothing to do with spam or the integrity of their search results. Google simply prefers ineffective SEO over SEO that works. No question about it. They abhor any strategies that allow guys like you and me to walk into a business and offer a significantly better ROI than AdWords.

This is no different than the YouTube videos "recommended for you" that teach you how to make money on AdWords by promoting Clickbank products which are likely to get your account flagged and banned. Ooops.

Anti-competitive Funding Blocking Competing Ad Networks

John Andrews pointed to Google's blocking (then funding) of AdBlock Plus as an example of their monopolistic inhibiting of innovation.

sponsoring Adblock is changing the market conditions. Adblock can use the money provided by Google to make sure any non-Google ad is blocked more efficiently. They can also advertise their addon better, provide better support, etc. Google sponsoring Adblock directly affects Adblock's ability to block the adverts of other companies around the world. - RyanZAG

Turn AdBlock Plus on & search for credit cards on Google and get ads.

Do that same search over at Bing & get no ads.

How does a smaller search engine or a smaller ad network compete with Google on buying awareness, building a network AND paying the other kickback expenses Google forces into the marketplace?

They can't.

Which is part of the reason a monopoly in search can be used to control the rest of the online ecosystem.

Buying Browser Marketshare

Already the #1 web browser, Google Chrome buys marketshare with shady one-click bundling in software security installs.

If you do that stuff in organic search or AdWords, you might be called a spammer employing deceptive business practices.

When Google does it, it's "good for the user."

Vampire Sucking The Lifeblood Out of SEO

Google tells Chrome users "not signed in to Chrome (You're missing out - sign in)." Login to Chrome & searchers don't pass referral information. Google also promotes Firefox blocking the passage of keyword referral data in search, but when it comes to their own cookies being at risk, that is unacceptable: "Google is pulling out all the stops in its campaign to drive Chrome installs, which is understandable given Microsoft and Mozilla's stance on third-party cookies, the lifeblood of Google's display-ad business."

What do we call an entity that considers something "its lifeblood" while sucking it out of others?

Published: August 3, 2013 by Aaron Wall in google


August 3, 2013 - 8:46pm

Hadn't thought of Google as Vampire....nice analogy. Clearly Google is an aggressive, soulless corporation now. One has to wonder when their relationship with the public will get "personal" enough for that to be of importance to them. Sometimes I get the feeling that their repeated failure to achieve success with social media is actually a reflection of their internal fear of being exposed as money-grubbing soul-less greedy monsters. If they believed people would love them, that passion would show in better products and engagement. But if they internally believe they are liars/imposters, then wouldn't we see what we see today? I think so.

August 22, 2013 - 10:22pm

... now if you buy AdWords ads, you can get integrated organic search performance data inside the AdWords interface.

Chinese wall ... blown to dust.

AdWords (provided) indeed.

August 3, 2013 - 10:08pm

Yeah SerpSleuth I agree with you.

I have been saying for a long time that Google missed the boat with Social and that is why Eric Schmidt got moved side ways (he can't really be fired) and Larry was installed as CEO.

Since "Sad" Larry has been back google has moved towards a more introspective and aggressive creature.

Google was happy to be appear to be nice to webmasters in the same way that a "king" is nice to his subjects. After all Google thought of itself as "the internet". Then Facebook came along and showed Google that other companies can have the same delusions of grandeur.

This is when operation "MEAN GOOGLE" was put into play. G+ was born. Google had lost in every direct fight they ever had against Facebook. examples (orkut, buzz, friend connect et al) So G+ was born to leverage Google's existing assets to bring Social in through the backdoor. Google's motto at the moment appears to be "if you can't beat them or buy them then undermine them". Kind of the Microsoft of the 90s mentality.

So now if a Google product isn't making billions or can't be integrated into G+ it is put on the Google graveyard. From all reports the Googleplex is no longer the happy go lucky place it used to be. People are either quitting or being silenced. he G+ or die strategy is really starting to affect the employees so the next few years at google are really going to be interesting.

Love or hate FB it actually feels like the place has a soul. There is so much activity both good and bad that it kind of feels like a weird version of real life. G+ is a soulless and barren wasteland where Google engineers and SEO's go interact?

FB feels like the local coffee house, G+ feels like a dental surgery.

August 5, 2013 - 4:27pm

Regarding: "FB feels like the local coffee house, G+ feels like a dental surgery."

Facebook = happy go lucky, not making much $
Google = A job, making tons of $$

Whenever you have a company like Facebook who seems like they aren't wrenching every last dollar outta the system it usually means they're passing up on revenue. Passing up on revenue is a bad thing, right? Being critical of Google's profiteering is sometimes kinda silly - of course webmasters would like them to not hound out the profits so badly (PPC, etc), but from Google's standpoint not capitalizing opportunities is laughable & bad business. The general search population still has no idea what Google's up to & I don't see that changing anytime soon. Besides, who else ya gonna search with Bing/Yahoo who pull the same shit?

It's just the way it is.

August 8, 2013 - 7:22am

Passing up on revenue is a bad thing, right? Being critical of Google's profiteering is sometimes kinda silly - of course webmasters would like them to not hound out the profits so badly (PPC, etc), but from Google's standpoint not capitalizing opportunities is laughable & bad business.

The big issue here is that Google spent years training the market that tracking was important and that we should leverage data to close the loop. Then after they became a market monopoly they quickly disappeared about half that data that people built business models around. Google removing that data makes the entire ecosystem less efficient.

Even the idea that you should generally consider usability & improving user experience sort of goes out the window when you can't see why people are visiting your site, if they are visiting for a slightly different intent than you originally considered which you could satisfy (if you had the data & could build around it, etc.). Combining Google's stemming, localization & data obfuscation means that in many cases users are headed down the wrong path & the webmaster doesn't have as much data to be able to help align things in the interest of users.

Google blocking keyword data is not Google capitalizing on opportunities to earn more, but rather is the high school quarterback going out of their way to go over and embarrass a nerd in front of a girl he likes, for no reason other than to act like a jackass & make the other person look bad. They don't gain any direct revenue from doing it, they just harm others for the sake of it.

Christopher K Wilson
August 7, 2013 - 5:55pm

"But now that AdWords advertisers can't opt out of mobile ads, Google has every incentive to promote what a big growth channel mobile search is for their business."
With the introduction of enhanced campaigns, I was forced to upgrade the campaigns of a client who does not have a mobile optimized site, and did not want to target mobile users with ads. There is a way to prevent ads from being shown on mobile devices, but it is hidden within the bid adjustment settings. You can adjust your campaigns' bids to -100% for mobile devices, preventing your ads from displaying on these devices. However, AdWords does not allow you to do the same for tablets with full browsers. In my recent campaigns we were forced to eat the costs from advertising to tablets, which resulted in 0 conversions, for weeks before the quality score dropped low enough to rarely show our ads on these devices.

If you're going to let us adjust bids for mobile devices, at least let us do the same for tablets as well...

August 8, 2013 - 12:02am

originally I think there was a -90% limitation & the -100% wasn't even an option in there, but it looks like they added it in eventually, so that's good news.

In terms of adjusting tablet ads, I agree 100% with you that more granular control is better for advertisers & seeing that go away is rough.

August 9, 2013 - 5:58pm

....usability & improving user experience sort of goes out the window when you can't see why people are visiting your site....

yeah, no kidding. I'm sure Google's response to that would be - 'the best way to improve the user experience is to test multiple landing pages - run a long term ad campaign targeting those visitors you would like to include in the test'. moneymoneymoneymoneymoney

August 20, 2013 - 7:50pm

Title of this article should have been: "Buy AdWords ads and the data gets sent. Rank organically and most the data is hidden."

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