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Evaluating (Not Provided) Organic Keywords In Google Analytics

One of the common tasks we have here at Boom, especially at the start of the month when generating client reports, is to provide clients with information about the real-world performance of their SEO. By that, I mean the impact it has on their business – not the ranking position in Google, but the amount of visits and more importantly, conversions they receive from organic search.

There are a couple of things we need to take account of when doing this, in order to provide an accurate report and not take credit for things like people searching for the client by name. After all, the vast majority of businesses rank top of Google for their name without any SEO! So, we need to filter organic keywords to exclude “brand terms” so that we see the true picture for generic keywords – the ones clients are usually paying us to get traffic for!

The other issue we have had to contend with since October 2011 is the presence of “(not provided)” in the keyword list. You can read an explanation of why that happens here, but essentially, logged-in Google users (or those using the Firefox homepage search) have the keywords they searched for removed from the Google organic referrer string (but not AdWords clicks). The effect is that whatever they actually searched for cannot be seen – all those searches are lumped in to the (not provided) bucket.

To make at least a little sense of that data, we want to calculate the percentage of (not provided) that is likely to be brand keywords and discount that figure. This is a fairly simple process that requires a few steps to get your ultimate “non-brand” keyword traffic data. Let us begin!

1. Get the number of Visits excluding (not provided) keywords

To do this, we first need to exclude (not provided) from the Organic Search report. Assuming you are already in the Traffic Sources > Search > Organic report in Google Analytics, go to the filter box at the top of the keyword table and click the “advanced” link, change the filter option to Exclude, enter (not provided) in the filter box and click Apply. It should look like this:

How to exclude (not provided) traffic in Google Analytics

Your report will now look very similar, but you will see that (not provided) is no longer in your list of keywords.

The next step is to make a note of the total Visits figure above the keyword table, as we will use this to calculate the percentage of all organic traffic that is from branded keywords. This is the figure:

Google Analytics organic visits

2. Get the number of visits excluding both (not provided) and brand keywords

We now need to exclude branded traffic in addition to excluding (not provided) traffic. Click the Advanced Filter edit link, then click the “Add a dimension or metric” button and choose “Keyword” under the “Dimensions” list, then add your brand name as another exclusion. Depending on your business name, this can be easier for some than others! If your business name contains common words (e.g. you’re called “UK Dishwashers”), it will be difficult to exclude all searches containing “uk” or “dishwashers” as people may be searching using those words without any idea of your brand or business!

In my example, it’s easy, as my “brand” is Ian Lockwood (the stats you see here are for my personal site that is sadly neglected in favour of this one!) So, all I need to do is exclude “lockwood”, as this will exclude any search terms containing that string (“ian lockwood”, “” etc.) You don’t have to use your exact brand as it should be written – in fact, partial matches are better, as people often mistype things! You might also want to look through the keyword report to find any misspellings, e.g. “lokwood” that you could also add to the exclusion list.

This is how my non-brand, also excluding (not provided), report setup looks:

Exclude brand terms from Google Analytics keyword reports

Now you need to look at the overall Visits figure again and use it to calculate the percentage of all non-brand traffic excluding (not provided). Simply, that is the figure you have just generated divided by the first figure you got by excluding (not provided). This is the figure generated by my report:

Non-brand excluding (not provided) traffic in Google Analytics

3. Calculate the percentage of (not provided) visits that are non-brand keywords

In my case, that “non-brand traffic excluding (not provided)” figure is 581. Divide this by the first figure to get the percentage: 581/869 = 0.668, i.e. almost 67%. So, I can say that 67% of my organic traffic is from non-brand keywords, a figure I can now apply to the (not provided) keyword figure to estimate how much of that traffic is also non-brand.

4. Calculate your total non-brand keyword traffic

You can see in the screenshot above that (not provided) generated 288 visits. So, assuming 67% of those 288 visits were from non-brand keywords, I can say that 193 of the (not provided) visits were non-brand keywords. Added to the 581 figure I already have (which is non-brand excluding all (not provided) traffic), it appears I have 774 non-brand keyword visits in this period.

I would then use this percentage figure to calculate other metrics along with the number of visits. Specifically, we are interested in non-brand conversions and/or revenue (if it is an e-commerce site). This is the bottom line for our clients – how much business are we generating for them? Of course, if you aren’t measuring conversions/sales, that’s a different topic – and one that I urge you to tackle as soon as possible! You can find out more about conversion Goals in this article.

Talk to us if you have any Analytics issues or would like to talk about your current website performance.

Ian Lockwood

Ian Lockwood

Ian has been optimising websites since 1998 and founded Boom in 2010. If not in front of a computer, he’s likely to be behind the wheel of a car or holding a guitar. Not simultaneously.View Author posts

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