Brad Geddes / PPC Geek
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Author of Advanced Google AdWords.
Co-Founder, Adalysis.
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As Not Provided Comes to AdWords; Google Needs Better Reporting To Fill the GA Void

It was officially announced on yesterday that (not provided) would be coming to AdWords.

For those of you who are not involved in SEO; this means that you will not longer be able to see the user query data in all of the places you could before, such as inside Google Analytics or pass the query data via GCLID data.

First, based upon all the rumors, what seems to be happening is that the query data will no longer be passed along to any referrers, including Google Analytics. However, you will still be able to see the query data in AdWords.

The initial assessments from various places is that this will have little impact on AdWords since you can still get the query data inside of AdWords reports. I strongly disagree.

AdWords shows a lot less data about your queries than Google Analytics; especially useful data that is relevant to making decisions about adding new keywords and negative keywords.

For example, if I asked you if I should make either of these queries an actual keyword or a negative keyword with this data, what would you do?

Query Clicks Conversions CPA
1 300 0 $0
2 65 0 $0


Now, if I instead showed you this data, would you change your mind?

Query Clicks Conversions CPA Bounce Rate Pages/Visit
1 300 0 0 22% 9.3
2 65 0 0 18% 7.6
Site Average 65% 2.3


In the first scenario, you might have added one or both queries as a negative keyword. However, after having additional data points about the user interaction, you might change your mind as now you have a better view of that query. If the queries are leading to much lower bounce rates and much higher engagements that your other keywords, then you might give them a chance to produce or slightly adjust your ads or landing pages in order to try and convert users who are this interested in seeing your content.

While you can see a lot of Google Analytics data within AdWords, you can’t see it for search queries (or for actual placement URLs) in AdWords – that data in only in Google Analytics (or your own home grown system).

This is just one example of where this loss of data will hurt marketers. As many companies are serving pages based upon queries, using custom Google Analytics segments and reports with this data, and much more, there are many instances where this loss of data is going to hurt marketers.

I can’t argue with protecting user data. However, taking away useful data that marketers use to make proper decisions is a poor choice.

We’ve already lost mobile only targeting with AdWords and have a lot of useless data since we can’t target tablets and mobile independently with AdWords. Right now, all new hires should start working in Bing before AdWords so that they can learn how different users react per device so new marketers can be trained properly about setting up and managing campaigns and site flows by device.

With this latest change, it’s yet another way that Google has given and taken away; this change can only lead marketers to making poor decisions because of lack of quality data.


  1. Julie Friedman Bacchini
    April 10, 2014 at 9:16 am · Reply

    I could not agree more! Working in both SEO & PPC I am painfully aware of how the lack of search query data in Analytics impacts my ability to give the best advice possible. When this happened for Organic search, we were told “Don’t worry, you can still see search query data in Webmaster Tools.” Webmaster Tools IS NOT Analytics. Nor is AdWords. I don’t care how many times Google tries to tell me it is equivalent – it simply is not.

    Losing this data in Analytics is going to hurt. Maybe not everyone will realize it if they are not digging deeply into their site’s performance, but those of us who do are definitely going to be a lot less able to discern correct actions without it. Your example is spot on.

  2. Gordon Campbell
    April 10, 2014 at 9:18 am · Reply

    There is also the added issue of the delay in AdWords when it comes to search query data…

    I’ve been able to save companies significant amounts of money using a process that involves analysing search query conversion paths in Google Analytics, really disappointed that this feature is gone..

  3. Steve Cameron
    April 10, 2014 at 9:42 am · Reply

    I fail to see how being able to marry a search term with keywords and analytics data somehow invades a person’s privacy – if we could somehow identify the person that made the search, that would be different, but ion the main we are working with personas – not real people…

    • brad
      April 10, 2014 at 9:47 am · Reply

      Because its actually possible to track this to a user. You might be able to do it via segments in GA or through collecting the data yourself and then marrying it to a form fill or IP address. By default, its very hard to do; however, its possible with a little bit of custom work and that’s what Google’s trying to avoid.

  4. Jim K
    April 10, 2014 at 9:43 am · Reply

    I’m not clear on the precise impact on GA. How does GA get it’s query data? Is it through the referrer or through the gclid= auto-tagging parameter? If it’s the latter then won’t GA retain query data anyway?

    • brad
      April 10, 2014 at 9:45 am · Reply

      GA gets it data from the GCLID ID. However, what seems to be happening is one of two scenarios:

      1. AdWords is not going to pass the query data in the GCLID any longer so a 3rd party can’t get the data from it.
      2. GA is going to be changed to just not display query data.

      Google has not mentioned how they are going to technically implement this yet; only that the data won’t be available.

  5. Calin Sandici
    April 10, 2014 at 9:57 am · Reply

    The way I understood the announcement, thr search terms will no longer be present in referring URLs.

    I saw no reference to breaking the adwords – (Google) Analytics link at gclid level. So my guess is that it’s the third parties and landing page customizers that will be impacted, not the GA dimensions.

    • brad
      April 10, 2014 at 10:04 am · Reply

      I hope your right; but from what I’ve heard (and most of this is still rumor right now as Google hasn’t clarified anything) is that GA wont’ show the matched search query data any longer and that you will have to get this info from AdWords reports. If Google keeps the entire GCLID intact and shows the query data in GA; then this isn’t a big deal. However, it seems the announcement ( means are going to treat this like in SEO where you can’t get this data in GA. In the announcement, GA was also left out, which seems to indicate the data won’t be there any longer.

  6. Laura
    April 10, 2014 at 11:09 am · Reply

    Hi Brad – any idea whether Google be masking the ‘keyword’ dimension in Analytics or just matched search query?

    • brad
      April 10, 2014 at 12:35 pm · Reply

      I don’t think they will mess with the ‘keyword’ data as that’s not actual search queries. I expect some accounts to add a lot more exact match keywords though with this change.

  7. Calum I Mac Leod
    April 10, 2014 at 12:49 pm · Reply

    I also think Google will keep the real referring keyword out of GA. Partly to avoid clever analytics folk isolating visitors and partly to avoid antitrust issues.

  8. Michal
    April 10, 2014 at 2:11 pm · Reply

    So it looks we will need to tag each keyword with utm_keyword to at least see the Keyword triggering the Search Term and how users behaved.

    Will all historical data disappear?

  9. PS Website Design
    April 11, 2014 at 3:38 am · Reply

    I completely agree with everyone’s comments above it will make it much more difficult to analyse specific keyword data (as compared in allanx24’s example above).

    However I think that if you set up your ad groups within closely related themes and you use your keyword match type sensibly, then you can still analyse how valuable on page analytical data which will tell you how your overall ad group or campaign has performed (bounce rate, pages per visit, conversions).

  10. Carol
    April 11, 2014 at 4:22 am · Reply

    Great post and i agree with many of your points. Once thing that has not been really clear is what about search query data when the goal is imported from analytics into adwords. Many call tracking providers are analytics based.

    In reviewing this, negative keywords will be even more important in controlling keywords within very granular adgroups.

  11. Barb Young
    April 11, 2014 at 7:16 am · Reply

    I totally agree, Brad. The other dimension we evaluate at the query level in GA is “visitor type”. Many of our clients’ conversions take place off line on a return visit. Keywords may appear to have low value in terms of pure “converted clicks” reporting, but in GA we can see the rate of “returning visitors” to further evaluate the value of a matched query. This is a huge loss.

  12. Jim K
    April 11, 2014 at 1:12 pm · Reply

    So today I’ve started to see (not provided) in Google Analytics on paid data but only in real time reports and only on about 30% of traffic. However, I’m still seeing queries in the Matched Search Query report in GA.

    Did some testing using random keywords that I know will trigger a broad match and can see that the search term isn’t being passed in the q= referrer. Looked in real time and I have a paid visit from (not provided). Wait 20 mins and check Matched Search Query report and my query appears.

    I’m based in UK, but tried on a UK and AUS site. The announcement said so maybe not hit us yet?

  13. Chewy
    November 26, 2014 at 7:46 pm · Reply

    Brad, can you please update us on this?

    Between April and now I can imagine there’s been a lot of talk and speculation, and likely things (like data) has started to settle out.

    From my own perspective, if this is really true that the big G is increasingly obscuring useful paid query data, this is bad news for many search marketers but not so bad — if you’ve done your homework and happen to have honed skills from working with large data sets that in some cases go back years before not-set and not-provided.

    While first I couldn’t even imaging Google doing this for paid search, it is increasingly dawning on me that this makes perfect sense, from an economic and legal point of view.

    • brad
      December 1, 2014 at 6:44 am · Reply


      Google has not made any moves at all to pull this data from GA. Its a post that seems to affect something in a few APIs and that is it.

      Right now a lot of people are seeing (not provided) for PLA data; however, this seems related to a shopping campaign bug and not a deliberate effort to remove query data. Google made a lot of announcements early in the year; and so far only one seems to have actually happened (some app ad install features).

      Some people will see (not provided) in GA if they examine a timeframe less than 2 days old in GA as it often takes Google 1-3 days to put all your query data in GA. However, if you’re looking at older timeframes; there isn’t any issues at all (assuming there are queries; for GDN you rarely see any).


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