Track Your Nonbranded Conversion Rate for Each Major Search Engine

Organic nonbranded conversion rate for each search engine.view at full size

To your Conversions reports, you can apply advanced segments for organic, nonbranded traffic from each search engine.

In the realm of organic traffic, people tend to focus pretty exclusively on, and we as Web analysts are no exception. In doing this, we sometimes remain unaware of important metrics for organic traffic from other search engines.

It is very worthwhile to track goal completions and ecommerce activity for nonpaid, nonbranded traffic from each of the major search engines in your locale. There are inherent demographic and psychograpic differences in the user base for each search engine, so visitors from the various search engines may respond to your site quite differently.

If visitors from Bing are generating the highest conversion rate, you can perhaps focus a bit more of your search engine optimization efforts in that direction. If visitors are generating the highest per-order ecommerce value, you could consider targeting more of your AdWords budget towards the UK.

Even more generally, remember to avoid the default organic advanced segment, since it includes branded traffic, and to break out country-specific search engines, particularly if your organization is located outside of the United States.

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Break Out,, and as Separate Organic Sources

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Google Analytics does not capture country-specific search engines as organic sources by default.

Surprising as it may be, visitors who have clicked through from any version of the Google search engine with a country-specific top-level domain, such as,, or, appear in the Organic Search Traffic report with plain old as the source.


To record these search engine versions as separate sources, you can add them to the organic “match list” in Google Analytics by including the following method call in your Google Analytics tracking code (with a separate line for each country and search engne as needed):

_gaq.push(['_addOrganic', '', 'q', true]);

_gaq.push(['_addOrganic', '', 'p', true]);


The ‘q’ or ‘p’ parameter represents the search phrase that user entered. You do not have to do any further configuration for this; Google Analytics reads it from the URL of the SERP (search engine results page), so just check the SERP and specify whichever parameter precedes the search phrase in the URL. For example, a search for “polar bears” in would appear in the SERP’s URL as q=polar+bears.


More noteworthy in this case is the final parameter: when specied as true, Google Analytics prepends this version of the search engine to the organic match list.


If the prepend parameter is false or omitted, the search engine is added to the bottom of the list, which defeats the purpose in this case, because a visit from would still match in the list first, and Google Analytics would look no further for an organic source match.


Big thanks to Brian Clifton for highlighting this important technique.

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12 Google Analytics Resolutions for 2013


1) Set up goals for all form submissions.

Goals aren’t retroactive, so make sure to set them up for all form submissions as early as possible in your Google Analytics implementation. Without conversions, there are no conversion rates.


2) Learn the ins and outs of funnels.

Once you have a goal, it’s very useful in many instances to build a funnel on top of it so Google Analytics can calculate metrics such as Abandonment Rate, but to use funnels most effectively, you should understand a few of their idiosyncrasies and limitations.


3) Don’t ignore Page Value.

The unassuming and underused Page Value metric (formerly $index) is indispensable in determining which pages are pulling their weight towards goal conversions and e-commerce transactions. (For this reason, make sure to assign values even to non-monetized goals, in a separate profile if you don’t want to skew actual e-commerce and goal monetization.)


4) Tag all inbound links with campaign parameters.

How effective is your monthly email newsletter at driving visits and conversions? How about your press releases? There’s no excuse to be in the dark on these basic questions – tag those links!


5) Track PDFs views and external links with Virtual Pageviews or Events.

It’s easy to forget that views of PDFs (and most other document formats) and clickthroughs to external sites are not captured with the default, pageview-based Google Analytics Tracking Code. Virtual Pageviews and Events provide an easy solution.


6) Avoid the built-in “Non-paid Search Traffic” Advanced Segment.

Lumping branded organic traffic and non-branded organic traffic is, for most purposes, a very bad thing. Define your own non-branded organic Advanced Segment. (And define other Advanced Segments of your own as well – better segmentation generates better insights.)


7) Track different social actions differently.

A Facebook Like that originates from your website can mean two very different things. Understand how social actions differ and track them appropriately.


8) Keep a chronology with Annotations.

When did the new home page go live? When was our company mentioned in the Wall Street Journal? You can’t make correlations between your Web data and relevant events if you don’t remember when those events happened. Maintain a comprehensive timeline with the convenient Google Analytics Annotations feature.


9) Incorporate qualitative evaluations into your conversion optimization plan.

An in-person or online user test can quickly reveal a conversion pitfall that could otherwise lurk in your Google Analytics reports indefinitely.


10) Run Content Experiments regularly.

Nothing like a head-to-head contest to tell you quite definitively what works better for conversions. If you haven’t yet run a Content Experiment or used a third-party A/B testing tool, start now.


11) Establish core KPIs (key performance indicators), and check them at least monthly.

As Brian Clifton says, Web analytics is like going to the gym: if you don’t do it regularly enough, you’re not going to be satisfied with the results. Consistent scrutiny of meaningful KPIs will lead to useful and actionable insights across the board.


12) Use Those Same KPIs for Daily or Weekly Custom Email Alerts

Don’t wait unnecessarily to find out that visits or conversions have dropped by 20%. Take advantage of Custom Intelligence Events to actively monitor your essential metrics and receive email alerts for substantial deviations.


Best wishes for a customer-focused, data-driven, conversion-optimizing new year!

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Find Out Your Google PageSpeed Score

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PageSpeed Insights provides specific recommendations for minimizing page load time.

Since the tip on checking page load time was posted, Google has increasingly promoted PageSpeed Insights, a new tool that analyzes your pages for load-time issues and scores them on the basis of 100 points.

PageSpeed Insights prioritizes very specific recommendations to minimize HTML, CSS, and JavaScript load times and thereby enhance user experience, conversion rate, and – at least in theory – search engine rankings.

YSlow, a browser plugin discussed in another previous post, provides similarly specific page-load analysis. Your search engine optimization team, however, may be particularly interested in PageSpeed Insights since it comes from the horse’s mouth, so to speak (Google, that is).

Whether or not you’re in a position to fully interpret or implement the PageSpeed suggestions yourself, it is wise for you, as a Web analyst, to stay abreast of page load issues and even specifically track your PageSpeed score on a regular basis.

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Track Search Behavior with Google Trends

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Google Trends displays search data as far back as 2004.

As intently as we must focus on the websites that we track, Web analytics doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We must remain aware of events that affect our industries and seasonal behaviors demonstrated by our target audiences.

Using Google Trends, you can chart search volume by keyword in Google since 2004. This data is helpful in many scenarios:

  • You’ve started working on analytics with a company that sells ski accessories and want to know seasonal trends for search terms such as “ski wax” and “ski goggles”.
  • You’re advising on the redesign and content refresh of an automobile insurance website and are wondering if more people search for “auto insurance” or “car insurance”.
  • You’re surprised that sales of home seismology kits on your amateur vulcanologist website did not spike after recent seismic activity and need to determine if this conformed with general search trends.

In this way, Google Trends can provide a broader context for visitor volume and behavior on your website and is therefore a worthwhile addition to your Web analytics toolkit.

As a note, make sure that you’re logged into Google when you access Google Trends – you’ll get more data.

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Take Advantage of Google Webmaster Tools

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You can filter the Search Queries report in GWT for user searches initiated on smartphones and in specific countries.

While Google Analytics reports are based primarily on user interactions with your website, Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) tells you:

  • what the Google search spider (known affectionately as Googlebot) sees when crawling your site
  • user search activity within the Google search engine

The natural connection between search engine optimization and Web analytics makes the GWT data, such as the following, a useful complement to Google Analytics:

  • broken links on your site
  • prevalence of specific keyword phrases on your site
  • impressions, clickthroughs, and average rankings for user search terms on Google, filterable by country and for smartphone
  • page load time in comparison to other websites
  • optimization issues regarding page titles and meta descriptions
  • optimization warnings, such as the detection of unnatural inbound links

If you haven’t done so already, you can very easily gain access to GWT for a specific website, especially if you already have Google Analytics admin rights for that site.

Even if you’re not responsible specifically for search engine optimization, and even though you can integrate some GWT search data into Google Analytics, it’s worth the direct trip to to view the full range of reports.

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Avoid the Built-in “Non-paid Search Traffic” Advanced Segment

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Your own organic nonbranded segment is generally more useful than the “Non-paid Search Traffic” segment.

For most purposes, the “Non-paid Search Traffic” Advanced Segment predefined in Google Analytics is too broad to be very useful.

A significant portion of organic traffic to most websites results from branded searches. For example, if you work at a company named Get to the Point that makes pencil sharpeners, you should not treat organic traffic originating from “get to the point” or “” searches the same as organic traffic originating from “pencil sharpener” searches.

You should instead define your own Advanced Segment to exclude company name, domain name, and possibly branded product names as well. A regular expression, as shown in the screen shot, can help to exclude multiple variations.

You might also specify that the segment exclude (not provided), which is the keyword that the Google search engine passes through to Google Analytics for searchers who were logged into gmail/Google; in many instances, the obscured keyword is also branded.

In applying this segment to your visitor and conversion reports, you’ll be sure to gauge your actual organic performance much more accurately.

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