[HACK] - How To Hack Google Analytics So They Show The Search Terms in "Not Provided"

Discussion in 'Making Money' started by mkstromin, Sep 15, 2012.

  1. mkstromin

    mkstromin Power Member

    Sep 29, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Hey Guys. Lets get to business. GA sometimes hides data and you dont know what the search term that brought visitors to your website was. So read this to get the data back:
    Before October 18th 2011, whenever visits landed on your site from its search results pages, Google would happily tell you all of the keywords they'd searched for.
    After October 18th, Google started hiding(!) lots of this information: "Not Provided"
    In other words: Before, for every 100 visits from Google, very roughly speaking, you'd see what all 100 searched for; now, between 5% and 33% of those terms are hidden by Google.
    You still get 100% of this info for 'paid search', but for 'organic search', much is hidden. How mean-spirited of them, eh? The worst case I've seen of this so far is a site with more than 10,000 '(not provided)' search terms each week.
    How to fix this?
    The bad news is you can't completely fix this. Sadly, the scallywags at Google have stuffed this data right into the back of the larder, though we keep our fingers crossed.
    The good news is, there are some things you can do:
    The hack: what it does

    I'd said the hack puts 'some useful data back' into your keyword reports. What it actually does is this:

    1. Looks for '(not provided)' search terms.
    2. Where it finds them, it looks to see which page the visitor landed on.
    3. It then changes your keywords report in Google Analytics to show those two pieces of information (the fact that Google suppressed the keyword, and the landing page), rather than just the utterly anonymous '(not provided)'.
    The hack: why it's useful

    The hack will give you the following insight that '(not provided)' hides:

    • Get a much clearer picture of the intent of all of your (not provided) visits.
    • Get a vague idea of the search terms those (not provided) visitors may have used.
    • Quickly get a rough idea of the 'brand' vs 'non-brand' split, by simply seeing which (not provided) visits land on the homepage vs others.
    I had originally been running additional reports to do some of the above, but I've found it far quicker & more useful to add that data back into keywords reports so I can analyse '(not provided)' data alongside my regular search data.
    The hack: before & after

    Here's a very quick example of the hack on a small amount of data.
    The Keyword Report
    The Google Analytics Keyword/Organic Report looks like this:
    Not provided - before the hack
    If we ignore everything else, and concentrate purely on the '(not provided)' section. Here's the information Google now gives us on these anonymous keywords:
    Obviously, there's not a whole lot of insight we can gather from that. Are those brand terms? Are they generic? Are they long/short tail? There is no way of knowing.
    Not provided - after the hack
    Here's the information we now get about those '(not provided)' keywords:
    Even from that small example, you can quickly see things like:

    • The vast bulk of 'not provided' data was from people landing on the homepage. (ie. a bulk will probably be 'head' terms).
    • 'Laptops' & 'cheap laptops' are next biggest landing pages among 'not provided' terms. I know these are likely to be driven very much by 'head' terms.
    • The rest is a little further down the tail of search.
    • The 'bounce' rate varies wildly among this, as opposed to the flat number we saw before.
    • We could also use this to see any e-commerce or goal data related to (not provided).
    And that's purely an example on a tiny amount of data. On larger pools, there's a whole lot more insight you can gather.
    The Hack: how to apply it

    The hack uses a 'filter' to change the data Google Analytics records. If you're at all uncomfortable about this, you may want to test it on a 'duplicate' profile first.
    To apply the hack, first we have to go to the 'filters' area.
    Step 1: Add a new Filter
    Here's a diagram showing how to reach the filter admin area in the 'New Version' of Google Analytics:
    Step 2: Configure the Filter
    To do this, we create a 'Custom Advanced Filter' (this sounds more scary than it is). Here are the settings to apply:
    This tells Google Analytics:

    1. "Whenever you see a search term that matches '<any character>not provided<any character>', apply this filter".
    2. "Within this filter, we also want to use the address of the page reached where '(not provided)' was the referring search term".
    3. "When you apply this filter, discard the original '(not provided)' search term, and replace it with 'np -' followed by the landing page address".
    Clicking 'Save' then applies that filter to the Google Analytics profile, and starts recording the data. (note: you can edit and remove filters at any time later).
    Step 3: Test the Filter
    To test the filter:

    1. Go to https://www.google.c0m (if it redirects you to Google.co.uk or another international site, you'll need to click the 'Go to Google.com' link at the bottom right of the page).
    2. Make sure your browser address bar contains 'https://'.
    3. Search for something you know you rank for. Preferably a page deep within your site.
    4. Click the link through from Google to your site.
    If all has worked, after a couple of hours you should be able to view the keywords/organic report in Google Analytics and will see that you have an entry beginning 'np -' followed by the page you landed on.
    Following that, you'll start to see reports like this:
    Instead of just this!

    So there we are. Not as good as the data we had before Google took it away, but far more valuable than the single '(not provided)' line we get as standard at the moment.
    There are lots of possible extensions of this too. For example, you could clean up the URLs you see here if you have lengthy ones, use 'Page Titles' instead of URLs if more useful, etc.


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    Last edited: Sep 15, 2012