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There are several reports suggesting that Google is about to make paid search keyword data 'not provided'.

As Google has already done this with organic search keywords, such a move would at least be consistent, but it would also make the job of the search marketer much more difficult. 

This move has been reported by ghergich.com, and is also backed up by Barry Schwartz on Search Engine Land, so there seems to be something in it. 

According to Ghergich, Google will cut off PPC referral data fro analytics packages. Here are the details reported: 

  • Google will stop supplying paid search query data to third parties. 
  • Reports within AdWords will remain unaffected.
  • SEL reports that advertisers may see [not provided] in Google Analytics reports, though whether this would apply to GA accounts linked to AdWords is unclear. 
  • Services that are using this query data may have no way to access it anymore. 

This seems to be a move to cut off the API and prevent third party access to paid search data, and perhaps to force advertisers to rely on Google's own tools and technology. 

Samuel Crocker has written a post containing some interesting thoughts on this move, around the competitive advantage it gives Google over other analytics providers: 

Going down this route creates a massive competitive advantage for Google. They own the keyword data and can choose to provide it to users through their own products if they choose. They could also keep it to themselves if they see the benefits outweighing providing some level of data to advertisers (hint: they won’t keep it to themselves).

It does at least promise to make the company's approach consistent with its removal of organic keyword data. As Kevin Gibbons pointed out last year: 

I do think privacy and Prism is a legitimate reason [for removing keyword data]. However, what leaves a sour taste in the mouth is the fact that paid search remains intact while organic search has disappeared completely.

That's the obvious reason as to why people are questioning Google's intention behind this, privacy doesn't appear to be affecting the part of its business that drives the most revenue. 

What do you think? What do you think the reasons are for this? How will it affect your paid search campaigns? 

Graham Charlton

Published 9 April, 2014 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

Arianne Donoghue

Arianne Donoghue, SEM & Social Marketing Manager at Mamas & Papas

I'll be very interested to see what ends up happening here. I had a feeling that this will be the content of their "big announcement" in a few weeks, but we'll have to wait to be sure.

I have no idea what the impact will be on bid management tools like Marin, Kenshoo etc - I would assume that they've already been warned this change is coming. It would be a shame if tools like that are unable to access any needed data as it would remove a lot of the value we have in using them.

Until Google share more detailed information with us, I guess we'll just need to keep guessing! But definitely not a surprise to most in the PPC game, I think.

over 2 years ago

Adam Tudor

Adam Tudor, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at The Black Hole

This would make sense with reg. to privacy and their main reasons for moving to (not provided), ensuring data is consistent across both channels in sending referrer data.

Maintaining data between GA and A would be ok as the data would be managed within the systems and referral keyword data would not be sent over the web.

Be interesting to see which path they take. I think any move which improves privacy online is a good move.

over 2 years ago




I was actually involved in a Hangout today with our Google account managers. We discussed many things surrounding their Double Click software and also Analytics Premium. An area that we are concerned with is that we have huge conflicts between out Analytics data and Adwords Data... more so, how our direct traffic atributes to too much of our bottom line, when we know this is not the case. However, regardless of the full details of our hangout with them. A couple of things were highlighted. 1. Google Analytics is pretty useless and flawed and is in fact, and I quote "simply Sample Data". Additionally, dependent on your traffic levels, the less accurate this sample data is. Obviously, this came as a surprise to us, after all how many companies rely of Analytics!! Obviously we are interested in Double Click Search, so I raised the question that if the data is just sample data and basically useless then would we be better purchasing Analytics Premium to link with Double click rather than Analytics Standard, so that our data is accurate....The answer was YES, and again that Analytics Standard is just 'Sample Data' - This is Straight form the horses mouth. We then discussed the keyword data, i.e matched search queries etc etc and when we touched on the subject of privacy and available keyword data, We were told that plans are in place to protect users privacy even more - in fact our Google rep went bright red.. I asked him to provide me with the heads up :) obviously he couldn't. But my guess is, that Adwords keyword data will become kind of unavailable in the long term for all. That said, if analytics is merely Sample Data, then what use is it anyway!

over 2 years ago



This change will have a big impact on goals and conversion data as we wont be identify which keywords have resulted in goals. So the question is how to optimise the campaigns?

Seems like instead of linking to Google Analytics to import goal data we now have to setup AdWords conversion data for all clients.

Still don't understand whats the logic of "not provided" - such a dumb idea making life difficult for online marketers.

And if Google is so keen on privacy then why do they read our emails in Gmail and show us ads and ask agencies like us to promote remarketing and display advertising. Seems double standards to me.

over 2 years ago

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