Paid and Natural SearchOne of the cool out-of-the-box fea­tures of Adobe’s Site­Cat­a­lyst is the abil­ity to track how vis­i­tors are find­ing your site. There are numer­ous meth­ods by which vis­i­tors might come to your site. Some know your site’s domain or have your site book­marked. Some come to your site via links from other sites. One of the most cov­eted sources for traf­fic comes from search engines, includ­ing paid search and nat­ural (or organic) search.

Site­Cat­a­lyst uses infor­ma­tion from exist­ing image requests on your pages, does some pro­cess­ing of the data col­lected, and then dis­plays the infor­ma­tion in the Traf­fic Sources reports. This means that there is no addi­tional effort you need to under­take to col­lect this data. Kinda feels like turn­ing the tables on those search spi­ders doesn’t it?  Besides, who doesn’t dream of being our favorite web-slinging hero (espe­cially my 3-year old son).

Site­Cat­a­lyst is able to cap­ture data from this traf­fic using three key data points.

1) The refer­rer (reported by the browser in the HTTP response header) is the URL from the page just prior to the cur­rent page. The refer­rer is used to pop­u­late the “Refer­rers,” “Refer­ring Domain,” and “Refer­rer Type” reports. We can detect which search engine a vis­i­tor came from by the domain in the refer­rer (yahoo​.com, google​.com, etc.).

2) The refer­rer also con­tains the key­words used in the search per­formed. This is con­tained in the query string of the refer­rer. The para­me­ter used varies by search engine. Dis­tinc­tion between paid key­words and nat­ural key­words can be accom­plished using paid search detec­tion (see #3).

3) In the case of paid search, a cam­paign track­ing code is included in the query string of the des­ti­na­tion URL. This is used not only to deter­mine the mar­ket­ing cam­paign, but also to dis­tin­guish between traf­fic from paid search cam­paigns (SEM efforts) and traf­fic from nat­ural search (SEO efforts). Con­fig­u­ra­tion of paid search detec­tion is han­dled in the Admin Con­sole of a par­tic­u­lar report suite.

Devel­op­ment Envi­ron­ments

Typ­i­cal web­site devel­op­ment cycles include three dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ments: a devel­op­ment envi­ron­ment for the ini­tial web­site build, a stag­ing envi­ron­ment for val­i­dat­ing and qual­ity assur­ance, and a pro­duc­tion envi­ron­ment for the actual end users. The data from your end users is the most valu­able to gain action­able insights for opti­miz­ing your site. As such, Adobe rec­om­mends sep­a­rat­ing data col­lected from pro­duc­tion envi­ron­ments from that in development/staging envi­ron­ments.

This presents a bit of a prob­lem in regards to test­ing search engine traf­fic. This traf­fic source can be very dif­fi­cult to test in a devel­op­ment envi­ron­ment because the dev site will typ­i­cally be on an inter­nal net­work and/or not sub­mit­ted to search engines for index­ing. For­tu­nately for you, there are a few workarounds you can use for test­ing this functionality.

1) Change the domain res­o­lu­tion via the hosts file on your computer.

2) Use a DOM Manip­u­la­tion Tool to adjust the des­ti­na­tion URL of a search result.

I’ll out­line both approaches briefly below.

Hosts File

1) Nav­i­gate to the hosts file on your com­puter – the exact loca­tion for your oper­at­ing sys­tem can be found at Wikipedia (http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​H​o​s​t​s​_​(​f​i​l​e​)​#​L​o​c​a​t​i​o​n​_​i​n​_​t​h​e​_​f​i​l​e​_​s​y​s​tem)

2) Insert a value to point your pro­duc­tion domain name to your test­ing IP address

a. If you don’t know the ip address of your test­ing server, you can find it by open­ing a com­mand or ter­mi­nal win­dow (Windows-r then type “cmd” in Win­dows). Type “ping [test​.mysite​.com]” replac­ing the domain name with your test­ing domain. The 4 num­bers sep­a­rated by peri­ods con­sti­tute the IP address.  You want to ensure that the test IP address maps to the pro­duc­tion domain name.

3) Save the updated ver­sion of the hosts file.

4) Try click­ing through on a search result from your favorite search engine.

DOM Manip­u­la­tion

1) Install Fire­bug for Fire­fox or some other DOM Manip­u­la­tion Tool.

2) Search for com­mon key­words on your favorite Search Engine that will lead you to your website.

3) Right Click on the link to your site.  Click on “Inspect Element.”

4) Click on the des­ti­na­tion URL and adjust the value to your test­ing envi­ron­ment (i.e. http://​test​.mysite​.com).

5) Click on the link in the web pane.

6) Use the Dig­i­talPulse Debug­ger to ver­ify that the refer­rer con­tains the search infor­ma­tion (domain and keywords).

The abil­ity to ana­lyze search engine traf­fic is one of the more valu­able func­tions of the Adobe Online Mar­ket­ing Suite. It is essen­tial to ensure your Site­Cat­a­lyst imple­men­ta­tion is con­fig­ured cor­rectly to cap­ture this valu­able data.

Have spe­cific ques­tions about Adobe Site­Cat­a­lyst?  Want to track a data point on your web­site, but not sure where to start with the imple­men­ta­tion?  Fol­low me on Twit­ter @sitecattips Please feel free to leave a com­ment here or send me an email at adobe­site­cat­a­lyst (at) adobe​.com