We stumbled across this interesting article today and thought we share a portion of the information shared with our readers.  During our quarterly business reviews with our IT consulting clients we are often asked “what does NOT PROVIDED mean in our Google Analytics?”  This is a great question, one that stumped us for a while.  BUT, we have the answer.

Read this interesting article on the topic.

But, what do we do with this information to make better SEO decisions.  Good question.  Here are some recommendations from the same article Uri Bar-Joseph.

5 Tips for Handling “(not provided)” Data

What can you do as (not provided) continues to eat away at your organic search data?

  1. Make the most out of the data you have. With the “(not provided)” rate approaching 40 percent, it means that you still have more than 60 percent of organic visits with referring keywords data. Make the most out of that data since it won’t be there for longer.
  2. Use Webmaster Tools. Google offers a lot of data about your website in Google Webmaster Tools. This includes the top 1,000 daily search queries and top 1,000 daily landing pages for the past 30 days, in addition to the impressions, clicks, click-through rate (CTR), and average position in search results for each query. You can compare this to the previous 30 day period as well as export to a CSV file to import to a different system or analyze it using Excel. For most small to mid-size B2B sites, this should be more than enough results to analyze in aggregate.
  3. For personalisation, use other data. If you’re using keyword data to personalize the user experience you offer on your website (related content, targeted landing pages) and off your website (follow up emails, lead nurturing), you will need to start using other data instead. Form submissions, page viewed, and campaign tagging could be used to replace keyword data in your personalisation efforts.
  4. For SEO work, use proxies. The problem with the aggregate data is it doesn’t give you the ability to tie a referring keyword with the subsequent website behavior like page views and time on page. More importantly, actions like form submission (B2B) and clicks on page (B2C, e.g. shopping cart actions) can’t be associated with a keyword making it impossible to report on ROI for specific keywords. This means that you will have to start using proxies such as keyword rank and ranked page to estimate single keyword performance.
  5. Use PPC data to estimate keyword performance. Since Google is still passing referrer data to advertisers for clicks on their sponsored results, you can use PPC to estimate the performance of keywords you’re targeting or considering.