Google Analytics: Now Less Accurate By Design!

January 24, 2012

In a blog announcement in January, Google announced some changes to the way “organic” search is referred to your website.

The big change is this: When individuals are logged into one of their Google accounts while performing a search query (Google accounts include Gmail, Google Docs, Reader, Calendar, Google+, or even YouTube), the keywords they use to get to your website are stripped out of your website analytics. This results in a keyword “not provided” line item (see above). This change only affects “organic” searches, not paid Google ad campaigns. Paid campaigns continue to receive all keyword data.

While the change is good news for individuals whose searches were increasingly personalized with identifying data that clearly isn’t anonymous, the impact for marketers and business owners is that Google campaigns could be less accurate.

Google’s blog posting on the subject asks us to “keep in mind that the change will affect only a minority of your traffic,” but in our recent findings we’ve seen up to a third of our clients’ referral data stripped. “These changes undoubtedly make it more difficult for business owners to identify keyword performance or do SEO. Without informed keyword data, it would be hard to figure out what content is driving traffic to your site,” wrote KISSmetrics in a recent blog post.

In general, we applaud Google’s commitment to provide additional security for its users, but this particular change may damage the search giant’s effectiveness for SEO analytics purposes. We hope Google returns us to business as usual in the near future.

For more information, please visit KISSmetrics’ “I Got 99 Problems But Google Ain’t One” blog post.


Jan Hirabayashi founded BroadBased in 1996 and is the company's CEO and lead marketing strategist.