Not Provided: What It Means and the 3+2 Methods of Keyword Discovery in Google Analytics for SEO

Once upon a time, in Google Analyticsthe possibility of identify the keywords with which users access a site. I am speaking in the past tense, because the introduction of "not provided" marked an epochal step (or it would be better to define it as a backward step) in the world of Google AnalyticsIt prevents knowing what search keys users are accessing.

Not all users of course, but often a large proportion, as evidenced by the fact that the item "not provided" is often the first in the ranking of keywords (or it would be better to say queries) from which users access a website. The introduction of "not provided" thus marks a not insignificant damage, taking away the webmaster's ability to know the origin of a visitor in terms of query and draw the relevant considerations.

Meaning and Translation of "Not Provided"

But how come the entry "not provided" appears? Let's first try to understand its meaning: literally translatable as "(data) not provided", the not provided is just users entering a site connected to Googlewhich are automatically redirected to the https versionfor which the keyword "Not Provided" is provided as a keyword, preventing the registration of the words used to access the site.

All this has been happening since March 5/6, 2012, the date on which Google extended to Italy the automatic redirection to the version https for users logged in to its services. The problem is that many users, even if they don't know it, are automatically logged on Google simply thanks to the use of Gmail, whose rapid spread has extended the scope of the problem.

Once we understand why Google Analytics prevents search queries from being displayed, let's try to understand how to find the words hidden under "Not Provided".

3 ways to discover keywords in Google Analytics

Let's look at some methods for interpreting queries hidden by the entry. The proposed methods are various, some rather technical. Here we analyze in detail three of them, easy to use even by non-expert users thanks to the use of Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

#1: Compare Google Analytics and Google Search Console

The first method to interpret the keywords hidden under "not provided" is to perform a Comparison of queries detected by the Google Search Console tool and those from Google Analytics. The method is quite simple: queries that register a good number of impressions on Google Search Console but do not show up on Google Analytics are perhaps hidden under "not provided."

It's a method that obviously requires access to the two tools and a little work, but it's easily implemented with Excel and doesn't require any special skills.

#2: Using Filters in Google Analytics

Another way to reveal the keywords hidden under "not provided" is to set Google Analytics with a new filter.

The steps are illustrated in the two screenshots below (taken from the most up-to-date version of Google Analytics):

  1. go to Administration of Google Analytics
  2. select the Profile and its Properties from the drop-down menu Account
  3. click on All Filters / New Filter
  4. add the Views (the sites) that are part of the account you want to apply the new Filter to
  5. At this point, whether you have one site in Profile or several sites (Properties), the process is similar.
  6. The next step is then to select Filter Type / Custom / Advanced 
  7. Fill out the Field A, Field B, Field C as shown in the figureGoogle Analytics not provided 1
  8. Select such as mandatory fields A,B,C and "Overwrite output field".
  9. Save the whole thing.
Google Analytics not provided 2

For those who want to explore further, there are other methods among which I point out:

  • decoding of Google search strings:
  • the implementation of a form on the site that asks for the keyword that the user has typed in to enter the site:
  •  analysis of the research carried out within the site:

#3: Discover Not Provided keywords with Keyword Hero

Keyword Hero is a software that I've been using for a few years on many accounts: interfacing with your Google Search Console account and Google Analytics (where it creates a new Property), Keyword Hero allows you to reveal keywords under "not provided" providing also the related metrics.

Keyword Hero has a free version (!) and a paid version at a competitive price (which at the time of writing is 10 euros per month) that adds another key element: the ability to understand which of the keywords hidden under the "not provided" bring conversions (obviously you must have configured the objectives in Google Analytics).


We have seen how the integrated use of Google Search Console and Google Analytics can allow us to guess the keywords hidden under the "Not Provided" heading.

And have you experimented with other methods? Let's talk about them in the comments. If you found the article useful, don't forget to share it on your favorite social networks.

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