Google was first to the draw, but Yahoo has now joined the showdown and is withholding keyword data from website managers. Going forward, visits originating from Yahoo Search will appear in analytics reports as direct traffic, and soon, Yahoo will no longer appear in your reports. Yahoo is thus following in the footsteps of its Mountain View rival, who itself shook things up again with the recent announcement that it will no longer provide the keywords entered by users, even when they click on AdWords links.

These decisions were made with the intent to respect personal data protection laws (Sheriff’s orders!). The search engines want to avoid associating a user’s search terms with his or her Google or Yahoo account – though in reality, it’s actually impossible for any site manager to link search terms to a specific Google or Yahoo account and name. Only Google and Yahoo can do that.

There’s a bigger issue at play.

Big Data & Wild WestAs long as website managers were the only ones using this keyword data, the search engines didn’t mind sharing this information. No, on the contrary – keyword data could effectively prove the scale of traffic generated, help SEO specialists optimise sites and enable better web indexing.

But today, a new group of gunslingers has sauntered through the saloon doors, and they’re holding up one of the search engines’ main ventures: audience-targeted advertising. These new wranglers are the DMPs (Data Management Platforms). They collect a range of anonymous information about Internet users, their behaviour and how they navigate. This collection of cross-sectional data then enables marketers to better target their ads. For example, a brand of chocolate might display its ad campaign to a user who recently viewed several recipes involving chocolate. These DMPs use data pooled from clients’ (publishers, marketers and agencies) websites. Keyword data is essential to identifying and refining audience profiles, particularly when it comes to measuring users’ interests and purchase intentions. Clearly, this data offers a priceless advantage in the quest for targeted advertising.

By withholding keyword information from website managers, Google and Yahoo greatly boost the value of this data, which, unlike DMP data, includes users’ search queries. The bottom line: This difference constitutes a serious advantage and enables Google and Yahoo to gain more audience-targeting market share.

For tips on dodging tumbleweeds and using workarounds to compensate this loss of information, read our blog post: How to improve SEO despite an increase in the number of “not provided” keywords.


Head of Client Success – Generaleads Benoit has a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Bordeaux and 10 years of web analytics experience developed while at AT Internet. In early 2015, Benoit joined the Google AdWords specialist agency GENERALEADS as Head of Client Success. In parallel, he’s working on the start-up GetLandy, the first landing page creation tool designed for traffic managers.


  1. Direct traffic why? event though Google doesn’t give the keywords anymore, you can still capture the referrer and classify the access with the search engines, right?

  2. Benoit Arson

    Hello Ben,

    Right for Google but not for Yahoo.
    Yahoo Search appear now in analytics reports as direct traffic. It’s why I say Yahoo will no longer appear in your reports.

    Have a good day.