Google Not Provided Over 70% With Apple iOS Passing More Referrer Data

Aug 6, 2013 • 9:18 am | comments (24) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

iOS 7 SafariAs I reported at Search Engine Land, Apple mobile Safari in iOS 7 and in some cases, other iOS versions, is showing more referrer data now than it did prior. Back in the day, Apple for some reason stopped showing in many cases that traffic came from Google when the search happened on Google via mobile Safari.

For example, if someone searched for blue widget using their iPhone, and clicked through to your web site from Google on mobile Safari, the data in Analytics would say it came from a "direct" source as opposed from a "search" source from Google. Why? Who knows but that is what happened and happens for many users.

With iOS 7 and some users on iOS 6, now Apple seems to be allowing the referrer data through. I am not sure who is at fault but I do think it has something to do with Google's HTTPS and how it interacts with how Apple designed mobile Safari.

A WebmasterWorld thread has webmasters complaining that the not provided keyword data has spiked to over 70%. Well, it has. But it is likely due to the fact that iOS is now reporting more search data, as opposed to it as direct. So more keywords are not passing through because it is being reported better.

Here is a chart showing the search displacement between iOS 5, iOS 6 and iOS 7 (you can use this yourself on Google Analytics by using this analytics template):

iOS Search Displacement

Notice how more and more organic search data is being reported as we get closer to iOS 7.

I tested this in iOS 7 myself and my referrer from Google is passing through but not via iOS 6. Some are reporting iOS 6 does pass referrer. I think it depends on the device and version of iOS 6 you are running.

Here is data showing the increase in not provided queries over time for this site:

not provided chart

This site now is over 70% in not provided stats, at least for the past thirty days:

not provided share

Pretty wild! 70%+ of my keyword data is not provided by Google. So sad.

Forum discussion at Threadwatch and WebmasterWorld.

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Adam Dince

08/06/2013 01:22 pm

It really is a shame. Makes no sense at all.

lez bennet

08/06/2013 01:30 pm

You can eat an Apple, what can you do with a Google?

Michael Jarrett

08/06/2013 01:33 pm

In the series of 3 pies I take it the blue segment is organic? This is different for graph 1 and then 2 & 3.


08/06/2013 01:44 pm

Your figure of 70% may be more reflective of the industry you report on, for some of my clients it varies drastically from 30% up to around 50%


08/06/2013 02:03 pm

less and less information. only google must have seo stats!


08/06/2013 02:03 pm



08/06/2013 02:05 pm

I am glad the data is passing. Now it actually get attributed to where it belongs instead of the direct bucket. That is huge for in house SEO departments.

Jamie White

08/06/2013 02:47 pm

I noticed this too but assumed it was a formatting error

Barry Schwartz

08/06/2013 03:08 pm

Yep, not arguing with that.

Barry Schwartz

08/06/2013 03:09 pm

The 3 pies are direct vs organic by iOS version.

Michael Jarrett

08/06/2013 04:11 pm

yep but blue=organic, correct?


08/06/2013 04:37 pm

You can write out numbers that have 100 zeros following...

Confused of saffron walden

08/06/2013 05:23 pm

So if you use PIWIK do you still get NOT PROVIDED or do you get the actual data?

Jon Hogg

08/06/2013 06:49 pm has had a massive spike recently, this must be why?

Drew Pearson

08/06/2013 07:31 pm

Barry, Michael is right. Your pie charts don't make any sense. The organic data is color coded blue for iOS 5 and green for iOS 6&7. More importantly, you're actually showing much "less" organic traffic as you move from iOS 5 to iOS 7.

Barry Schwartz

08/06/2013 07:31 pm

weird, I'll check on that.

Dean Rowe

08/06/2013 08:46 pm

Its the legend entry, presuming they are reversed?

Dean Rowe

08/06/2013 08:49 pm

Best news I've heard all week. Finally be able to measure Direct vs Organic YoY growth properly once this starts to clear. Thanks Barry

lez bennet

08/07/2013 12:28 am

Barry. Why isn't the compass spinning or at least showing north here?

Frank S

08/07/2013 06:48 pm

Sad Indeed.


08/08/2013 08:59 am

The analytics dashboard you provided does the same thing, it swaps the legends on the graphs around so they do not make sense, because the legend for ios5 shows blue for organic and the legend for ios6 and 7 shows green as organic.


09/05/2013 11:49 am

I think it's all a big plan by Google to start charging SEOs for the keyword data eventually.


09/19/2013 02:19 pm

According to we'll reach 100% in December 22nd. And, yes, for most of our clients our (not provided) curve is pretty much like the site shows. Actually, while it says the industry standard is 71.5%, we have 75% for a big client.


09/19/2013 08:19 pm

My 'not provided' has increased drastically from 31% in July to 70% as of today. But my ios organic traffic has not increased. Shouldn't I see an increase in organic ios traffic if this was the case? My overall organic traffic has not increased either.

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