Everyone has seen it and everyone has been frustrated by it. When “Not Provided” shows up on your click report for paid ads, you can bet that almost every corporate marketer has wanted to just to shout in agony about how much Google sucks (even though we still secretly worship them). Google announced in April that they will no longer be providing query data from the referrer for ad clicks that originated from SSL Google searches. This essentially means that you will no longer be able to tell what keywords most people are using during search queries.
This is what you’re more than likely going to see (and I can guarantee that top spot will contain 90% or more of your keyword data):
What does Google have to say? Google released an official report after dropping this bomb. They essentially cited security reasons that were the basis of their decision. Google said, “We are extending our efforts to keep search secure by removing the query from the referrer on ad clicks originating from SSL searches on Google.com.” Even though some might roll their eyes at this lackluster reasoning, it is still important to protect the privacy and security of Google users.
Google, however, is in turn emphasizing the tools that we still have access to. Truthfully, this is not a great loss considering all of the powerful tools that still exist in AdWords, Google Webmaster Tools and more. We are still able to mine useful data that, most importantly, doesn’t cost a thing. To replace this function, Google suggests using the AdWords API Search Query Performance Report or the AdWords Scripts Report service to access detailed and similar information. Though neither will provide an exact match in function, they both still generate excellent and easily actionable data. This is not a new change either; this motion has been in the works since 2011. The “not provided” function has been a source of frustration for many years but this is just one of the many quirks that come with using the tools within AdWords and Analytics. This change is just going to be something that we have to come to accept and use to adjust our process of analyzing referrer data from ads.
The take away from this situation is, frustrating as it may be, using what you have to best of your ability. Take the data that Google does give you and build on it, enhance it, and correlate it with other pieces to give your data more meaning. This “not provided” is only a sliver of the data that you have at your disposal. Even more importantly, use this as chance to sharpen your analysis skills and learn not to depend on Google, but on your own expertise.