Google AdWords Goes Not Provided: Referrer Data Gone For Paid Search Ads

Apr 10, 2014 • 8:30 am | comments (14) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google AdWords

Google AdWords Not ProvidedThe rumors were true, Google has indeed went the not provided route for paid search ads, AdWords ads.

Let me step back and explain what is happening, so you really understand it.

What is changing is that the advertiser will not see the full referrer data, including the keyword string, passed through to their server. In short, when someone goes to Google, searches for widget and then clicks on your ad, Google would communicate the details of that click through what is called a referer. Now, a lot of what is communicated in that click has been removed, including the keyword the person searched for. That won't pass to your log files, through the referrer data or to the standard analytics packages.

Does that mean you are losing the knowledge of what people are searching for to click on your ads? Nope. Not really.

The AdWords reports still show them to you, the APIs still give them to you and a lot of the AdWords software built by third parties use the API and thus nothing has changed with those applications. But, the raw referer data is gone and just like with organic search, that data won't be passed through the referer and to your log files or analytics.

What is interesting is that there are ways to get the data but not necessarily the true keyword data. You can use ValueTrack, a parameter you can set in AdWords to trigger the destination URL to include the keyword and other parameters. So technically, you can set the destination URL to have that data, such as:

The keyword parameter will pass for the specific keyword that triggered your ad. So if you aren't using that, you can. Of course, again, most of tools automatically handle a lot of this.

This impacts mostly those who don't use those tools or who relied on basic Google Analytics and/or old fashion technology.

You can learn more about this over here.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Yehoshua Coren

04/10/2014 04:05 pm

Barry - perhaps it's worth clarifying that a "keyword" has a different definition for AdWords than it does for Organic Search. A "keyword" in Organic search is the same thing as the user's Search Query. A "keyword" in Paid search is not the same thing as the user's Search Query. I think some of the confusion among folks out there in the interwebs is that they heard they're loosing "keyword" data in paid search. Really, they're losing 'search query' data. In this case, I think that the semantics (or lack thereof) are what are getting everyone so worked up. Yehoshua p.s. Loss of search query data for paid search is still a significant change. I don't downplay that....


04/10/2014 04:32 pm

Thanks for the clarification Yehoshua, agreed, it is a big deal. It seems now Google Webmaster Tools is the only source left to get search query data for your organic traffic. Or is that also going away?.

Barry Schwartz

04/10/2014 04:36 pm

That was my question about valueclick, is it the query or the search ad keyword? Also what happens with dynamic insertion?

Yehoshua Coren

04/10/2014 04:48 pm

ValueTrack passes the "search ad keyword" in one parameter field and the matchtype in a separate parameter field. Dynamic Keyword Insertion works smoothly with ValueTrack. With dynamic insertion, the triggered keyword populates the ad copy. But there is always a triggered keyword. That is the value that gets passed back to the keyword field in ValueTrack. The "search query" or "exact search term" that the user entered into the search engine (including missspellings etc), is what is not going to be passed through.

Barry Schwartz

04/10/2014 04:51 pm

Thanks for clarifying.

Pieter van Diggele

04/10/2014 04:55 pm

You can still view the matched search queries by opening the "keyword details" report in your Adwords account. You just can't view them in Analytics anymore, which basically makes it harder to calculate ROI based on ecommerce revenue for example.


04/11/2014 02:20 am

I wonder what would be next...? They will for sure destroy all other analytic related to keyword research. They work on it slowly but securely...


04/11/2014 10:18 am

next will be paid organic top 10. Here is no any doubts.

Diogo Cruz

04/11/2014 10:24 am

IMO this goes too far " This impacts mostly those who don't use those tools or who relied on basic Google Analytics and/or old fashion technology." From my experience, most companies only use GA (for web analytics) and so many often they don't even know they way around it. We have to acknowledged there's much more to the world that large companies or high tech oriented ones. IPieter van Diggele is right: "You can still view the matched search queries by opening the "keyword details" report in your AdWords account" - I know this not integrated with GA, but still, we can't say we lost the data. - In terms of DKI's they don't add really anything to the equation, besides more confusion to readers. For AdWords value tracking a good starting point is{keyword}&matchtype={matchtype}


04/11/2014 12:09 pm

You have right... First page of Google results will appear only with paid results...


04/11/2014 12:17 pm

other ways are still open to find sales oriented keywords through search term report in Google adwords. other options like ValueTrack and Script are also available. We are already started tracking sales oriented keywords and give keywords and clicks report of our clients at galore Technology.

David Kley

04/12/2014 02:25 pm

Gotta admit, this kind of sucks, although I understand why they are doing it. People are taking the tools from paid, and using it for organic. Crafty, and probably morally correct, but Google says no. I wonder if this will make people use more third party tools for keyword research and ranking information? I don't understand why they would want people to flock to tools other than their own, because they want to retain more data for themselves. There are ways around this thorugh. If you drill down further into GA, there are places it displays the data. It's not so much they removed it, just moved it. Overall, great post Barry! Thanks for sharing

David Kley

04/12/2014 02:31 pm

Well said. I agree with seeing this as losing search query data, rather than keyword data.


04/19/2014 11:37 pm

Useful info. Thanks!

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