What can search marketers do about “not provided”?


It’s been a long time coming, but it is finally here. Google is finally “not providing” search referrals for all organic searches. “Privacy,” they say. How does a searcher’s privacy affect search marketers? And what do search marketers do about it? When Google sneezes, search marketers catch pneumonia, so what’s the treatment?First off, why is Google doing this? They say that it is to protect the privacy of the searcher’s keywords. But that explanation doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, because they are withholding only organic referrals. They are freely sharing all paid referral information with their advertisers. So, while there are many theories that attribute base motives to Google, we don’t really know what they are doing this.

But it doesn’t matter to search marketers why Google is doing it. What matters is what to do about it.

While many search marketers are apoplectic that Google has finally announced a complete shutoff of organic referral data, it doesn’t matter how you feel, but rather what you will do next. Over the last few years, you’ve watched the organic referral data steadily decrease until it is now reaching 100%.

In the US, you can extrapolate to get some information. Because Bing handles approximately 30% of the data, you can divide your referrals by .3 to take a guess at what the total referrals are. This won’t yield an exactly accurate number, for a few reasons:

  • Bing’s market share is a guess–it varies each month and there is no objective way to pin it down exactly.
  • Extrapolation is inherently inaccurate–there is no way to be sure that keyword usage on Bing and on Google mirror each other perfectly. Chances are that it doesn’t.
  • You might not be in the US–Bing’s market share in some countries is negligible. If Google has 98% of the market share (I am looking at you, Sweden), you can’t extrapolate with any level of accuracy with 1-2% of the data.

But it’s better than nothing. And others are popping up to feed you alternatives–this article gives you some ideas for fighting Google on “not provided.”

The point of all of this is that you can’t give up. Even if Google makes things harder, you need to find new ways to overcome the obstacles. Search marketing is still the cheapest marketing method around, so a few bumps in the road shouldn’t throw you off.


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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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