Not Provided for Paid Search – Not a Big Deal

If you are a Google AdWords advertiser, you might have blinked in confusion earlier this month when there were rumors circulating about keyword and query data going away in Google Analytics. As many SEO practitioners have learned the hard way, Google can – and will take features away at their discretion. The ensuing debate following the removal of search-query data from organic listings is still alive and well, so it is easy to see how this fresh round of paid-search rumors have also struck a major nerve.

Secure Search Background

The famous (infamous) roll-out of “Not Provided” search-queries turned out to be a real pain for the SEO community. All of a sudden, it became quite difficult to explain the true impact from any given keyword or type of keyword in terms of on-site behavior such as leads or sales. Google, in essence, removed the ability to rely on any given SEO keyword statistic as they bundled anyone searching via Secure Socket Layer (SSL) into the “Not Provided” bucket… thereby rendering the non-SSL stats incomplete to an unknown degree. Many search marketers have made due by migrating keyword reporting to content reporting via SEO content mapping, which essentially gauges keyword performance based on how a given keyword-rich page performs.

The New Announcement (A.K.A: The Moment You May Have Freaked Out)

Back to the future, this month, Google posted a new update on the Ads Developer Blog stating:

“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.”

Um, no? They can’t do that can they? Well they did, but – you don’t have much to worry about. The same announcement actually goes on to reassure those who may have inadvertently spilled their morning macchiato:

“You can [still] access detailed information in the AdWords search terms report and the Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries report.”

For most search marketers, this is likely the way you measure and understand search-query performance anyway. The real loss is to those marketers who create dynamic landing pages based on search-query. Even still, there are workarounds by passing the keyword through UTM parameters as an alternate.

The Net Result

Not much will change. If you were totally relying on Google Analytics for AdWords reporting, you may have to change a few things around to rely more heavily on AdWords and less on Analytics. This update doesn’t even come close to the original SEO-related announcement, as there are still other sources to get the paid-search data… many of which are the preferred sources to begin with. AdWords is entirely unaffected by this change, so you will still be able to see which queries are driving impressions, clicks, etc. for any given keyword that is bid on within AdWords.

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