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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Falling Revenue from Branded Keywords for Organic Search in GA | Mystery Solved

Saturday, April 27, 2013
Image Courtesy: Silicon Angle
Is Revenue from Organic Branded Keywords Negative in Google Analytics? It’s time to solve the mystery.

For most of the established stores, major percentage of sales comes from their branded keywords (Br-KWs) from both organic and AdWords sources. Lately, there has been a growing concern among retailers that they are seeing a fall in revenue from branded keywords from organic sources.

What they see is the data they filter using custom segmentation in GA for branded keywords. Result – negative revenue in YoY comparison. On the contrary, when they see overall organic Br-KWs, they see positive revenue.

So, what goes wrong after they segment in GA? The culprit may be ‘Not Provided’. The overall organic results show both Br-KWs + ‘Not Provided’. If we filter ‘Not provided’ in GA with custom segment, the end result is negative (revenue in this case). 

You should worry only when the overall revenue from organic Br-KWs (Br-KWs and ‘Not Provided’) is negative when you do bi-yearly or YoY comparison. Filter result in custom segment in GA based on ‘Br-KWs by eliminating ‘Not Provided’ may not be accurate to see the revenue and sales performance. 
You need to see if % of ‘Not Provided’ is increased. If it is, then how much is the difference? A YoY comparison of ‘Not Provided’ gives you insights into analyzing the data more accurately. 

We have seen that % of ‘Not Provided’ under organic keywords search is increased significantly. GOOGLE DOES NOT PROCESS THE QUERY STRINGS UNDER HTTPS. Hence, high converting Br-KWs are masked as ‘Not Provided’, and when this is filtered in custom segment, it shows negative for all visible Br-KWs’.

Not Provided’ may be comprised of Br-KWs and generic keywords as well. However, if you see a higher % of ‘Not Provided’, and lower revenue from Br-KWs, its more likely that % logged in users (possibly your existing customers or returning visitors) is relatively higher than your unique visitors. 

Rising Trends in ‘Not Provided’ –DIY Validation  


If you want to validate if %‘Not Provided’ is increasing up, and higher, log into your GA, and compare the data for the following TWO periods. 
  1. Jan 1, 2012 –Dec 31, 2012 vs Jan 1, 2011 –Dec 31, 2011
  2.  Jan 2011 –Sep 2011 vs Oct 2011 –Mar 2013
You would find that from Jan 2011 –Sep 2011, there was no hidden Br-Keywords (Not Provided) while from Oct 2011 –Mar 2013, the trends for ‘Not Provided’ is growing up, and higher. Please, see below the screenshot. 

The down arrow shows that Google’s ‘Not Provided’ started showing up in Oct 18, 2011 (as indicated by saffron line) when Google officially announced that GA can’t show search data from secure SSL/HTTPS. Here is a reference link of Google Official site -

Since Oct 18, 2011, the trend in ‘Not Provided’ is growing up, and up. You can analyze this too to validate this if you see GA and compare the data for Jan 2011 –Sep 2011 vs Oct 2011 –Mar 2013.  

What will you find?

Finding 1- Revenue from Organic Br-KWs for the past TWO years (2011 and 2012) may be possibly down after you filter ‘Not-Provided’ in custom segment  

Finding 2 -Revenue from Organic ‘Not Provided’ KWs for the past TWO years (2011 and 2012 may have possibly increased significantly. 

If you closely analyze the TWO findings, you see that a large % Br-KWs that generate revenue from Organic search are masked as ‘Not provided’ while Br-KWs that generate lesser revenue or no revenue are shown up in GA.


1.   It’s not true that revenue from organic Br-KWs is down if we consider both ‘Br-KWs’ + ‘Not Provided’, for a large % of BR-KWs are masked as hidden or ‘Not Provided’.

2. 'Not Provided’ may consist of other generic keywords plus Br-Keywords but as I mentioned above that that higher % of sales actually comes from Br-Organic KWs than generic KWs. 

Measure with Caution

We are all seeing a growing % of “Not Provided”  in GA for organic KWs search, and it’s expected to grow further in 2013 due to growing number of users using mobile, and devices, and they are mostly logged in G+ or Gmail when they search on Google. This is a growing area of concern for a mid-level retail store if they should continue to bank on FREE GA or consider other analytics software for a good analysis of their online business performance.   


  1. I agree, you have wrote a nice article, after releasing of penguin 2.0 the ranks of websites have got down and of course the ROI so that maximum businesses are focusing upon the Br-Kw because it is the ultimate source that is genuine and will let you be on the before revenue again.


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