Updated: Google To Protect Paid Search Keyword Data, Making It ‘Not Provided’ [Corrected]

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Updated: Google To Protect Paid Search Keyword Data, Making It ‘Not Provided’ [Corrected]

A.J. Ghergich recently broke the news on his site that keyword data from paid search is soon to go the way of organic search–it will become ‘not provided.’

Google started encrypting search data last year, but AdWords advertisers still had access to it. A.J. says he received information from a trusted source with details indicating Google will cease supplying 3rd parties with paid search query data. Reports within AdWords will remain unaffected, but services reliant on this query data may have no way to access it anymore

Sources believe this change is expected to roll out in the next few weeks. A possible reason for the change by may be to increase ad spend, with the belief that less data leads to less accurate AdWords decisions.

A.J. elaborated on this news in a comment made to Search Engine Journal:

I can confirm on the record that this memo was sent from the Agency team at Adwords and only went to a small number of people.

Obviously for me I am not a fan of the whole ‘Not Provided’ stance, but what marketer would want less data lol? The reason why I say this is a step in the right direction is because IF ‘Not Provided’ is really about privacy then why are 3rd parties allowed to access this data? And of course the bigger question for Google is, IF this is about privacy then why can I see the data if I pay for it?

I don’t think the stance…”We protect your data/privacy except for when people pay us to access it” would fly very well in any industry. So if Google is going to have ‘Not Provided’ then the data needs to ACTUALLY not be provided.

Search Engine Land ran a story yesterday and said their trusted sources confirmed A.J’s report that Google will soon stop passing keyword data to advertisers.

SEL also indicated their sources say Google is likely to announce this change within the week, and the change may go live in as little as a few weeks. Google themselves could not be reached for comment.

John Rampton, Search Engine Journal’s Editor-At-Large and an authority in paid search, weighed in with his thoughts on the possibility of this change:

These are just rumors and kinda go against what Google says they’d be doing for a long time.  I personally DO NOT see this happening. They would essentially have to do away with Exact Match and Phrase Match. Which dominate searches.

NOTE:  Google will cease supplying 3rd parties with paid search query data… this I could see, but honestly I don’t see why they would cut themselves at their knees and not allow you to find out data to spend more money.  Advertisers would stop advertising because they couldn’t justify costs without knowing data behind them.

We will make sure to keep you updated with more information about this developing news as it becomes available. What do you think about ‘not provided’ affecting paid search? I’m interested, as always, to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

UPDATED – APRIL 10, 2014

Google has since confirmed this news in a post on their Ads Developer blog:

We’ve long worked to keep your searches on Google secure…Today, we are extending our efforts to keep search secure by removing the query from the referer on ad clicks originating from SSL searches on Google.com.

Advertisers will continue to have access to useful data to optimize and improve their campaigns and landing pages. For example, you can access detailed information in the AdWords search terms report and the Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries report.

For more information please see the full post here.

UPDATED – MAY 7, 2014

A correction to this news item has been published with more accurate information:

Advertisers can still get the full search terms in AdWords – you just can’t get it from the referrer string in the URL. This is the change: when a user clicks on ad AdWords ad, the search term that triggered the ad appeared in the referring URL… That won’t happen anymore.

For the most current, accurate information on this subject please see this post.

Matt Southern
Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing... Read Full Bio
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  • Wow! Really? The whole “Not Provided” for organic search really throw a wrench into keyword research. When/If this happens to Paid Search…might as well through the rest of your tools into it too. I mean, you really won’t be able to tell which keywords are working..which are getting the clicks/conversations and which aren’t. Ridiculous.

  • It’s hard to not have an initial negative reaction (like throwing up a little bit in the back of your mouth). We would be losing something we’ve gotten used to. So it’s helpful to ask what we would have done if we didn’t have the keyword data to start with. Would we have started using AdWords then?

    At the moment, I’m still worked up. So I can’t really comment on my questions, lol. It would be a big blow to lose exact match. Realistically we may have to take our clients’ money elsewhere – not out of spite or anything silly like that. It’s just a big deal. Can’t wait to see what happens … you gotta love what we do 😀

  • Not completely true, if I understand it. I mean, two thirds of our most costly top 20 keywords are exact match keywords. In the case of exact match, I don’t need to see search phrase data to know what was typed in.

    Where that data has helped the most, is in identifying negative keywords for phrase, broad and broad match modified keywords. Even as it is now, Google only shows a small percentage of that data, but it has been critical in identifying new negative keywords to improve the quality of the search results.

  • First of all you’ll see the keywords in query report… but 48 hours later 🙁 In many cases you already burnt a bunch of money by then… which is a good revenue to Google.

    And sadly from search query report you don’t know which visitor spent more time on your page and which not… so basically you can decide about a keyword just if it cause conversion or you can eliminate the keyword if it doesn’t cause any conversion at all… but you ned more time to determine this because you can’t see the the actual engagement.

    I chose online marketing as my profession because once it was measurable… and now it’s like TV advertising thanks to Google :S

  • Norm, it’s not completely true, because you can pick ‘close match’ and if you use close match Google try to find you similar search terms eg. [sign a document] you’ll probably showed up for ‘signing a document’ and sometimes those keywords have different meaning.

    Finding negative keywords: Do a very extensive keyword research with a software that capable of harvest keywords from Google Autosuggestion and you’ll find most of the negative keywords before you even start your campaign

    • Adam

      Can you recommend a software? Thanks, Adam

  • Himan Patel

    Majority of people use Google as their default search engine. As a business, Google would be taking a big hit. For keyword data from paid search to become ‘not provided’, Google will be missing out on those who would pay in order to find out that information. This business move is questioned; however, it would gain respect with its users. They want their information to be confidential.

    As an SEO consultant, this information wouldn’t affect much since the data that I would be most interested in are exact matches. Search queries becoming ‘not provided’ wouldn’t account for much of a loss. That’s why I think that Google has a right idea by pushing for secure searches.

  • Can you please update this post to be more accurate? Keyword data is NOT going away, just the search query in the URL (ergo, analytics). Of course we can still see the keyword, otherwise there would be no point in advertising. This is very misleading.

    • Thank you, Kyle. You are absolutely right. I have updated this post with a correction.