I’m going to go ahead and spoil something for you from the get-go: you can’t actually “unlock” the (not provided)’s. It’s not really that simple.

I’d apologize for deceiving you with the title of this post, but I’m not actually sorry 😉

The fact is the old days of hot and heavy keyword mining are over. It’s time to work around the obstacles and accept that this is a completely new SEO landscape that requires new tactics. So get you head out of the past, and start moving forward with these keyword tips!

What Does (not provided) Mean?

You’ve probably noticed that almost all your keyword data is sucked up by this black hole. Google is protecting users’ privacy by making any Google user’s search queries private – meaning anyone signed into Google in any way who Googles something gets the invisibility cloak.

That means some keyword data is still available – but not much. Hold on to those scraps!

Use Other Analytics

Analytics are good for a lot more than keywords (here are some basic Google Analytics tips to get you started). Most notably: look at your landing pages. Like Whole Foods, these are all organic, baby. See what your users are into and go from there!

Also look into Google Webmaster Tools – though still a bit limited, you’ll find some keyword data there.

Use On-Site Searches

If you have them enabled and people actually see/use them, on-site searches are the REAL DEAL! (Here’s my post on how to set up on-site search analytics.)

Seriously, if someone is on your site and searching for more, they are hooked, and whatever they are looking for really matters. This is a goldmine for content ideas, trust me!!

Use Yahoo and Bing

These search engines aren’t quite as upstanding as Google, and you can still find your beloved keyword data here – though not that much of it (seriously, who uses Yahoo or Bing?!).

Use AdWords Keyword Planner

This new-ish feature on AdWords is actually really intuitive and helpful. Supply all the parameters you can on this tool, providing your landing page and even demographics, and you can get a relatively decent projection of keyword search success for given queries, plus some suggestions.

Paid PPC Data

Okay, so there is actually one way to unlock search query data: paying for Google PPC. It’s a rigged system that allows you to actually pay for private data, but what the heck. If you really want it, they let you have it!

Most Importantly… Disregard Keywords!!

As I talked about already on my blog, Google keywords matter less than ever. Keywords should guide your content and provide data for what’s working, not define your content.

WordStream notes that “15-20% of Google searches have never been searched before” – WHOA!! So one out of every 5 search queries is, by default, not a keyword you would know anyway. That means you have to create content that allows for un-thought-of “keywords” by creating quality content that people want to read. BOTTOM LINE.


Got more tips on working around (not provided) keywords? Do share!

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