Term Not Provided at 100% and What It Means for Brands

In Q4 of 2011, Google began encrypting the keyword referrer data for users signed-in to their Google account (gmail, Google+, etc.). This is labeled in analytics as Term Not Provided or other similar forms. Since its inception, Term Not Provided has grown substantially; on average, it drives 30-40% of total site traffic and many times higher for conversions and revenue for PM Digital’s clients.

On September 23, 2013, Search Engine Land reported Google’s quiet confirmation that they will encrypt (Term Not Provided) all search clicks with the exception of SEM clicks. Essentially, this means that individual keyword performance data (traffic, conversions, revenue, etc.) will no longer be available via analytics.

Current Impact to Brands

While the detailed keyword data will be 100% encrypted, natural search aggregate performance data will also continue to be available. This is most important when showing the value of the SEO Marketing Channel to Sr. management, particularly when it comes to growth and profitability from natural search at a high-level.

On average, PM Digital has seen an 80/20 brand to non-brand split when it comes to natural search keyword performance for standard SEO KPIs (traffic, conversions, and revenue). This trend has been very consistent and even higher for large brands for quite some time (>2 yrs.). This behavior and assumption should not change in the foreseeable future for most brands.

Year-to-Date Term Not Provided performance metrics have been very similar to brand behavior for conversion rates and AOV (within a 3% margin of error) for several PM Digital clients. A strong majority of these users are assumed to be existing customers or customers with considerable knowledgeable of the brand.

Future Impact to Brands

Google will no longer provide keyword performance data for conversions and revenue for natural search. Hitwise data for August 2013 indicated that Google’s share of voice was at 67% with no imminent signs of significant change.

Bing does, and will hopefully continue, to provide detailed keyword performance data currently powering approximately 20% of all US searches according to Hitwise.

Natural search aggregate data will continue to be available via analytics (fingers crossed), and will not affect enterprise-level reporting. SEO’s overall impact as a marketing channel shouldn’t be clouded by Term Not Provided at 100%.

Keyword traffic data will continue to be available via Google Webmaster Tools up to 2,000 queries per month with a 90-day rollback. PM Digital archives the historical data from Google Webmaster Tools for its clients, enabling longer historical views into keyword traffic performance from natural search. For PM Digital’s top trafficked client sites, on average the top 25 brand and non-brand keywords have driven 90+% of traffic and revenue. The 2,000 queries from Google Webmaster Tools provide a VERY LARGE sample to understand the true natural search behavior of a site.

Moving ahead, SEO integration with SEM and PLA campaigns will be more crucial to performance success than ever before. SEM and PLA campaigns provide greater insights into real keyword performance and should be leveraged to drive SEO strategy.

Reviewing SEO impressions, CTR and ranking data from Google Webmaster Tools is also highly recommended to understand SEO traffic data.

  • Conversion and revenue performance can be forecasted based on aggregate conversion rates and AOV (estimated keyword revenue = impressions x CTR x clicks x aggregate conv. rate x AOV).
  • For example, 1,000 impressions per month x 20% CTR x 2% conv. rate x $100 AOV = $400. To test for relevancy, simply compare this to a keyword performance for any given previous month.

PM Digital will continue to monitor the impact to Term Not Provided at 100% and provide further points of view on its impact in the future.


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  • Foursteps

    Does anyone know if the natural search aggregate data will actually be available? My webmaster and analytics SEO data on all my sites stops on the 23 September. It normally runs a couple fo days behind but this is now a week behind.

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