Ways to deal with (not provided) in Google Analytics

There is a growing problem for many businesses looking for insights from Google Analytics. Logged in users of Google products (and search bars), have the keyword referral data stripped and this is replaced with the keyword (not provided) instead.
There are several ways to gain insights from the data that is reported instead. At the simplest level, you can segment the organic data by landing page. For a more complex approach, register for the new (not provided) tool currently in Beta testing.

This tool relies on neural networks and machine learning techniques to discover the hidden keywords within the the (not provided) organic referrals.

Google suggests alternative search terms – tools to try

Latent semantic indexing has been discussed at length over the past few years and with synonyms being seen clearly in search results it is evident that search will continue to move away from the ‘cave man query’ to a more sophisticated understanding of the search intent behind the query. There is gold in these hills.

A great deal can be learned from the suggestions given by Google in response to a query. These suggestions provide real clues to indexation, classification and Google’s understanding of content, semantic relationships and search behaviour.

The following discussion shows the four major clues Google provides to understanding possible search intentions…

For this example, I have chosen ‘gelato’ – yum!

This screenshot shows how Google is addressing the intent of the search, by providing knowledge base articles in the right hand side column and another box beneath which suggests alternative search queries, entitled ‘See results about’:

Google results for gelato query


Google is trying harder than ever to understand the nature of the query whenever you search, and cynically, to keep you on Google until they have helped you tailor the query to perfection.

Here are four ways Google suggests alternative searches, saving typing and steering the visitor towards the results they seek:

1. Google suggest (drop down list)
2. Google’s ‘Search instead for’ prompt in response to malformed queries
3. Related search terms (shown beneath the regular search results, when available)
4. Results for similar searches
5. Alternative searches ‘See results about’ box


Google suggest gives clues to the most often searched queries, or content available on the web.

Google suggest


Suggested Tools: http://ubersuggest.org/

Spelling mistakes can result in a Google prompt at the head of search results: ‘Did you mean ?’ or ‘Search instead for’

Google search instead suggestions

Related terms reflect those keywords Google most often sees – closely related terms in form and sequence and help us gain a deeper understanding of intent and information being sought.

Searches related to gelato


Suggested Tools: http://searchintent.co.uk


Correct spellings give rise to ‘alternative’ search suggestions. The alternatives from Google demonstrate a deeper understanding of the meaning of the search term.

See results about ice cream


If the query is difficult to decipher, such as ‘how to fly gelato in space’, then Google selectively removes terms and provides search result suggestions for similar searches directly:

Similar search results

So, ‘flying a gelato’ is a reasonable query, but try to fly one in space and that’s just too crazy. These results are often fascinating, the search term suggestions made here are often wildly different from the original query too. e.g. my original query did not include the term ‘travel’, yet Google sees a strong association with the original query ‘how to fly gelato in space’ and the subsequent suggestion: ‘flying space a travel’.

Interesting leap for search kind.

Webmaster Tools – Search Appearance

Google has re-arranged the menus in Webmaster Tools:

Features are now organized according to the stages of search: crawling, indexing, and serving. The settings have moved to the gear icon in the top right corner.

A new menu item has appeared in Google Webmaster Tools to help webmasters understand what influences snippet generation and the appearance of sites in search results. For many SEOs, there is nothing new here, but for smaller businesses unable to afford search consultancy it will provide useful information and drive home the need for clear site architecture and the need to use semantic markup or structured data.

Image of search appearance menu
Image of search appearance menu

If you hover over the individual elements, then additional information and links to Google guidelines are shown.

For example, sitelinks are generated algorithmically and those sitelinks chosen to be shown are related to the query entered:

Image of sitelink influence help
Image of sitelink influence help

The following screenshot from Google Webmaster Tools shows the help presented for influencing the URL appearing in search results. In this case, the advice is to either have a clear site architecture, or to add breadcrumbs.

Image showing how to influence URLs in search appearance
Image showing how to influence URLs in search appearance

This additional information is very useful for site owners and provides a good point of reference for many smaller businesses hoping to optimise appearance in search.