"Not Provided" keywords arrives on the doorstep of PPC

Paid Search to be affected?

SEOers everywhere faced the annoyance of "Not Provided" being introduced into their keyword tracking within Google Analytics, and it looks set that the same may happen to Paid Search.

For those who are new to Digital Marketing, you wouldn't have previously experienced the joy of being able to analyse your traffic data to minute detail, identifying which organic keywords generated you the most traffic. Such analytical information was like gold dust for your KPI reporting and to help identify actions moving forward in your SEO plan.

Then the dreaded "not provided" was rolled out slowly, but like a plague of locusts, soon took over. Now most organic keyword traffic in Google Analytics is categorised as "Not provided", and easy transparency of your keyword success is about as clear as thick gravy.

At first there was talk of conspiracy. Google announced that full transparency of keyword traffic would still be available through adwords, so most people instantly fell into the belief that this was a move by Google to push more digital marketing activities towards paid campaigns (for which, naturally they get their revenue from). In essence, muddy the nature of SEO tracking so people move to Paid.

But now there is talk that "Not Provided" has transferred across to Paid Search. (Using my analagy of a plague of locusts, I will liken this to them hiring a boat to cross the water to the neighbouring country, so they can wreck havoc there as well.)"

There was short-lived hope, when Amit Singhal - Google Search Chief - announced that as a company Google recognised the disparity between SEO and PPC in terms of keyword tracking, and that they would realign the two shortly. Whilst many digital marketing professionals assumed that meant greater transparency returning for their SEO campaigns... their hopes were misplaced. Sadly the activity they talk about involves hiding data from Paid activity as well.

Previously when people entered a search, then clicked on a Google Adwords advert, the search query data with in the referrer string would be shown in Google Analytics, or most other 3rd party analytics software. With the introduction of secure searches becoming the norm, that data is being dropped from the referrer string and therefore will no longer be passed through for reporting.

google ppc not provided

However... It's not as bad as we thought

Some PPC definitions

Now at this stage, we need to make clear a few things. There is a difference between keyword data and search query data. The important thing to note here is that your keyword data is NOT being affected (we will go into that in a minute). Keywords are what you (or your PPC agency) bids on to gain visibility. The search Query data is the phrase or term that people type into the search bar. The later can be much longer and in depth. But it is the inclusion of a "keyword" (or synonym) in that search query which triggers your adwords campaign, and in turn displays your advert. The 2 terms "Keyword data" and "Search Query Data" are not the same thing and should not be confused.

You will still have visibility of your keyword data in analytic's and adwords and THAT is the important point to take away.

Things that ARE CHANGING:

  1. Like when it happened to SEO, the percentage of "not provided" clicks in your Paid Search channels within Google Analytics will undoubtedly rise. For those running an agency, you may have to educate your clients to this new development, so as to avoid awkward conversions without a good explanation.
  2. Dynamic Landing pages are likely to be effected. Dynamic pages which utilise the search queries in the referrer will no longer have that data to populate in the first place.
  3. secure searches within Google will drop the search query details. In this example: "https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=digital+marketing+agencies" the element "q=digital+marketing+agencies" will be dropped and no longer passed through to Google Analytics or third party programmes.


  1. keyword data will still both be available in Adwords
  2. keyword data will be available in Google Analytics if the accounts (Adwords + Analytics) are linked.
  3. you can still bid and segment your keywords into "match type", and continue to see which keywords within each match type trigger your adverts. 

The Future For Paid Search?

One last (and scary thought). When "not provided" was being rolled out for SEO, it too started off by saying, it will only affect a small amount of searches, don't worry, it's not a long term effect etc. Months on after this has now encompassed SEO enormously we sadly don't blink an eye at this and have to take the problem on the chin. Is this the same for PPC? Search Query data is being hidden... but how long will it be until keyword data will also follow suit?

Contact Whitefish Marketing in regards to PPC 

Feel free to contact Whitefish Marketing with any questions about SEO and PPC. Call our Folkestone team on 01303 720288 and we will be happy to assist.

Article Name
Not Provided arrives to paid search
Paid Search now to be targeted by Google's "Not provided" category. What does this mean for future transparency of our PPC campaigns?

About Chris Surridge

Chris Surridge is an experienced Digital Marketing Director with a wealth of knowledge on Search Marketing Strategies and Conversion Analysis. His value is in strategic planning for client accounts, and his consultative services.

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