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Viewing the keywords which are driving organic traffic to your site can help you prioritize your SEO (search engine optimization) strategy. Understanding the keywords which are driving traffic to your site, allows you to see which keywords you need to work on, which keywords are working for you, and also, allows you to verify any efforts you may have put towards a keyword. 

A common tool, used by most digital marketers, is Google Analytics. Google Analytics allows website owners and digital marketers to analyze and digest website user behavior data, such as the keywords used to find the site. However, one caveat to Google Analytics, is that more often then not, organic keywords information will be shown as ‘Not Provided’, as shown in the screenshot below. 

GA Not Provided Keywords

This is due to the privacy protections through Google Analytics and the use of SSL, which is enabled automatically for users with Google accounts, the referral data related to the search is hidden.  This leaves digital marketers with missing information as to the ROI of a specific keyword, or more simply, which keywords are driving traffic.

Although we may not be able to fully “unlock” the not provided keywords, there are a few workarounds we can use to gain a better understanding of the data behind the ‘Not Provided’ keywords.

Take a Look at Paid Keywords

The first method to get a better grasp of your users would be to take a look at paid keywords.  Paid keywords are not subjected to the same restrictions as organic keywords, so there is clear visibility here.  The shortcoming here is that the only the keywords you are buying will show up, which requires extensive investment in keywords and does not include the organic ranking you may have on the SERP.

Go into Acquisition > Campaign > Paid Keywords

Paid Keywords in GA

Google Search Console

Although Google Search Console is not as robust with post-click data conversions or landing pages statistics as Google Analytics, Google Search Console opens up visibility into impressions, clicks, CTR (click-through-rate), and average position. While Google Search Console is important for understanding how Google crawls your site, you can also get a better grasp of the keywords that are driving organic traffic to your site.

Go into Acquisition > Search Console > Queries.

Search Queries in GA

Discovering Landing Pages

Another way to gain insight into the possible keywords driving organic traffic is to view Landing Page data Google Analytics provides.  First, look at the landing pages that led organic users to the site, and then from here, you can deduce possible keywords or topics that may have led users to your unique pages and also view their behavior, such as conversions.  

Go into Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages > Segment for the Organic Traffic Channel

Landing Pages in GA

Creating a View with Filters to See URLs

With admin access on Google Analytics, those ‘Not Provided’ keywords’ landing pages are discoverable, giving you insights on how and what content is attracting users and their behavior on site.  As a second option, we recommend applying this filter in a separate view as to not remove any relevant data from your current view.  Note that this will not work with any prehistoric data but only data moving forward.

1. Go to the admin section in the bottom navigation > Filter

GA Filters

2. Create a custom filter with the custom filter choice > Advance

3. Use the following parameters

Field A: “Search Term”: (.not provided)

Field B: “Request URI”: (.*)

Field C: “Campaign Term”: np – $B1

4. Click all boxes minus case sensitive and save

Use Software

Software such as Ahrefs or Moz, which crawl the search terms and deduce keyword positions are great for receiving a directional understanding of the organic terms that are related to your site. This option generally costs money but is well worth it to understand the keywords that your site ranks for as well as additional keyword information like difficulty or inbound traffic.

With many tools, we find great results from Ahrefs as our main provider. While it does not integrate with Google Analytics, Ahrefs helps you do the following:

1. Audit your website
2. Analyze your competitors
3. Study what your customers are searching for
4. Learn from your industry’s top-performing content
5. Track your ranking progress 

Putting It All Together

While we can’t help you unlock the ‘Not Provided’ keywords, we have given a few workarounds to help you put a story together as to which keywords are driving your organic traffic.  

Do you need help understanding which keywords are driving organic traffic to your website? Or do you have a question not answered above? Reach out to our SEO team by scheduling a Free Consultation!

David Kim