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Analytics Keyword Data – Unavailable For Logged In Google Users

If you’re a Google Analytics user, you may have seen this blog post by the official Google Analytics Blog.

For a growing minority of your website visitors, i.e. organic visitors who are logged into a Google account, you will no-longer be able to see the keywords that they used to find you.

Google Accounts

The announcement is a bit vague, and tries to explain the benefits of the change to the way keyword data for organic searches by logged in users is shown.

It’s a bit like when your bank sends a letter to say they’re increasing charges and tries to tell you it’s for your own good.

Understandably, the analysts are raging – just check the comments on the announcement.

Google have made this change, which is a clear deterioration in service, due to privacy concerns.

Why would the search term used to find your site be a privacy issue?

Well from your perspective, it doesn’t make a difference whether the user is logged in or not, because the data isn’t segmented by logged in versus not logged in, and there doesn’t seem to be any enhancement in terms of demographic data available. And either way, you can track against a unique reference using a custom variable and form data (not that you or I would do that).

But it’s the data that Google collect.

The search engines, including Google are regularly asked to provide data by government agencies and federal courts.

In fact, in the last recorded figures, for the 6 months between July and December the United States filed a whopping 4,601 requests for user data, of which 94% were accepted and complied with (partially or fully). Despite it’s size, the UK is up in the top four with 1,162 requests of which 72% were accepted.

Data Requests

United Kingdon user data requestsUnited States user data requests

If you’re interested to know more, here’s Google’s FAQ on user data requests and the full list of user data requests by country.

Many people will disagree with me here, but I personally prefer security over privacy, and would rather that Government agencies are able to see search data on certain topics, or to assist with court cases. Of course there are downsides, and there will be occasions where this information is used in a hugely negative way. But on balance, while I understand why Google have made this change, I’d like my keyword data back please.

They welcome feedback, so hopefully this will be temporary.

Credit to Sam for mentioning this today.

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  • Liz

    That is a good point. From what I am seeing though it is the fact they are still keeping this data available for adwords that is causing the biggest problem. If they have made the decision because of privacy or because of data requests they should have rolled it out across everything, not just organic search.

    • Katrina Gallagher

      Good call Liz -
      I don’t know what Google are collecting, but if they do continue to keep the data, but just don’t publish via Analytics then it’s a reduced service for no improvement in privacy.
      And to make it available for the benefit of paying advertisers but not for those interested in organic traffic – to say the change is for the privacy of its users would be hypocritical.