The Case of Inflated (not provided) in Google Analytics

 
 

Today we noticed a way to potentially inflate the amount of (not provided) keyword in Google Analytics. Traffic from links on https://www.google.com and some of its subdomains will be treated as organic traffic with the keyword (not provided) and not as referral traffic as we would expect.

Update: Google no longer shows own domain referrals as organic traffic.

Tested: Google Webmaster Tools

Log into Google Webmaster Tools and click on one of your keywords, select one URL from the list of suggested pages containing that term and click on it.

gwt-keywords

Now go to Analytics and switch to a live overview (you can filter by clicking into (not provided) to reduce noise if you have a busy site:

not-provided-analytics

Tested: Google+

Clicks from Google+ shared links count as organic search traffic:

google+ links

Links via:

http://plus.url.google.com/url?sa=z&n=1332033639227&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdejanseo.com.au%2Fhistory-and-identity-in-the-blogosphere%2F&usg=-yRDh_HauXz18Yt4RFfpW-B9DQ4.

to:

http://dejanseo.com.au/history-and-identity-in-the-blogosphere/

In Google analytics this shows as organic search traffic:

google+ referral

Have you noticed this?

Is this just a live analytics bug or does this data also go into permanent stats? Please use the comments below or our Google+ thread to let us know if you notice this anywhere else.

Dan Petrovic is a well-known Australian SEO and a managing director of Dejan SEO. He has published numerous research articles in the field of search engine optimisation and online marketing. Dan's work is highly regarded by the world-wide SEO community and featured on some of the most reputable websites in the industry.

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6 Responses to “The Case of Inflated (not provided) in Google Analytics”

  1. on your first point: based on experience, that’s what usually happens when your visitor is logged into their Google Account. they can’t really track logged-in users very well for fear of user privacy blah-blah-blah

    2nd point: ill come back on this later :D

     
    • Zgobz
  2.  This is what I had suspected and thanks for helping me to confirm it.

     
    • Anton Stetner
  3. Yes, not provided for one of my clients increased by 1500% on March 13th. Not provided now accounts for 20% of organic search keywords.

     
    • Matt Coughlan
  4. If the site’s traffic is from outside the US, its likely related to the recent global roll out of secure search: http://insidesearch.blogspot.com/2012/03/bringing-more-secure-search-around.html

     
    • Guest
  5. Did you clear cookies before running these tests? 

    Google Webmaster Tools is an https site so if you navigate from that page directly to an http page on your site no referrer information is passed along. To Google Analytics that will appear as a direct visit and will not overwrite any previous campaign cookies.

     
    • Guest
  6. we have extended on our criticone seo software which now allows clients to dive further into the “not provided” keywords based on a number of metrics.

     
    • criticone seo software

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