Google Analytics Not Provided

A new parameter has shown up in my Google Analytics as of October 14th. It shows up instead of a keyphrase, says (not provided) and I’ve spent a few days trying to figure out what it is.

What’s different?

I had to figure out what circumstances would cause a user visit to be different. Since (not provided) seems to be limited to Google search visitors I started there. There are different ways people can click to get to the site:

  1. Click on link.
  2. Click on PPC link.
  3. Click on get lucky.

Google Analytics Timing

I had 4 different machines available to me at home: desktop, laptop, smartphone & Wii. I tried multiple browsers for the desktop, laptop & smartphone. I tried #1, #2, and #3 on the 30th. I was able to see the clicks in Analytics the corresponding clicks on th 13th. There was 1 click missing and I suspected it was not provided. There were clicks both days in (not provided). I confirmed the visits with server side analytics.

The difference.

I then tested only using the desktop on the 14th at multiple times during the day. No (not provided) results. Next was the laptop on the rd with 25% of clicks missing. I used IE, Firefox, Opera & Chrome. I figured it was one of the browsers, but why? I used the same browsers on the desktop. I decided to run a browser test on the 15th so I did the searches from my default browser, Opera. It looks like everything was posting to (not provided). Then it hit me, this was the only browser where I’m logged in to Google.

Google returns (not provided) for its users!

That’s it. I’m not sure why or how it helps anyone, but (not provided) is returned when a user is logged in to their Google account. Which makes me wonder. What if everyone is logged in to Google? Will Google eventually require people to have accounts to search?

Update 10/18/2011:

Seems Google heard our cry and decided to explain what (not provided) is. Turns out I was right, those logged in to Google are afforded a bit more “privacy” and what they searched for to get to your site will not be provided. Since the data is anonymous anyway I don’t see the benefit to the user.

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