Does the success or failure of your paid and natural search initiatives create more questions?  Do you want to understand better how visitors react to your site entering from external search?  Do you want to know how to improve your site to take better advantage of the traffic you are driving to your site from paid search?  There is no magic bullet, but I hope to give you the skills to better understand how paid search is affecting your visitor behavior, so that you can test different creatives and landing pages.

If you are new to Discover, you may wonder, “Where are my Search Keywords – Paid and Search Keywords – Natural reports?”  To get these reports you need to first load the Paid Searches report in Discover, which is found under the Traffic Sources menu.  From here we can break down paid or natural by keyword to see our paid or natural keywords.

What is the impact of all my paid search initiatives on my business?

Please note: If you have set up your paid search to be recorded in the campaigns variable and you have utilized SAINT classifications to roll up all paid search campaigns then you can answer this question in SiteCatalyst.

  1. Drag the Orders and Visits metrics to the Paid Searches report.  Note: you can select any metric that you would consider a key success on your site.
  2. Create a calculated metric for conversion rate.  In this example I am going to define it as “Orders / Visit”.  If you are unsure of how to create a calculated metric in Discover, you can reference section 6.5 of the Discover User Manual.

This report quickly illustrates to me the value of my paid search initiatives in driving a significant amount of traffic to my site (21% of total visits) and converting those visitors.  In fact, I see now that my paid search initiatives are converting visitors at higher rate than the site average (13.19% vs. 10.35%).  After learning of the stellar performance of paid search, compared to other channels, you may ask…

Which of the keywords that I purchased are converting the highest?

Not every keyword is created equal and we can get a better idea of which paid search keywords should receive some TLC, or if certain keywords should just be dropped.

  1. Click on the green plus sign next to Paid to break down paid search by search keywords.
  2. Sort the Search Keywords by Order by clicking on the arrow in the sub-column header.
  3. Of the top five keywords (by orders), “jj esquire” is the lowest performer, converting at 12%, compared to more generic keywords like “jeans”, which converts at 16%.  So now the next question I have is…

Why is keyword “jj equire” converting at a lower rate?

There is a lot of data available to try paint the picture of why one keyword may be underperforming.  I will try to take you though a logical flow, but when doing your own analysis you may skip a step, if it is not relevant to your business.

  1. My first thought is maybe there is a difference in where visitors from the “jeans” keyword and the “jj esquire” keyword are landing on the site.  This can be uncovered by breaking down both terms by Paths > Pages > Pages Entry.  Tip: If you have more than one row highlighted when you click on the green plus button to breakdown then all the rows highlighted will breakdown.
  2. In both instances, the majority of visitors (99% and 83%) are landing on the Home Page.
  3. Are more of the visitors from the “jj  esquire” keyword exiting immediately from the Home Page than visitors from the  “jeans” keyword?  To answer this question, drag over the metric Single Page Visits and create a calculated metric for Bounce Rate (Single Page Visits/Entries) to add to the report.
  4. Again, we see similar behavior from the Home Page for both keywords.  A possible next step would be to A/B test changes to the Home Page better tailor the user’s experience.  We know that “jeans” converts at a higher rate, so I would consider using a banner to highlight jeans to help drive visitors from generic brand terms like “jj esquire” deeper down the conversion funnel.

You may still be scratching your head, trying to understand why there is a difference in conversion between these two keywords.  Perhaps asking the following questions will lead you to the answer you are yearning for.

Since visitors are not immediately leaving the site at a significantly greater rate, are they not converting at a higher rate because they cannot find what they are looking for?

  1. Create a Visit segment where Paid Search = Paid and Search Keyword = jj esquire.  Note: the Paid Search and Keywords criteria need to be defined together in a Page View container so that we guarantee that “jj esquire” was a paid search.  Then the Page View container must be nested within the Visit container so that we can capture visitor path data in the segment.
  2. Open the Next Page Flow report (Paths > Pages > Next Page Flow) and drag your newly created segment to the top of the report.
  3. A significant portion of visitors navigates to the Children & Toys section and then to Search.  With this greater insight into visitor behavior, you may want to test different configurations of the Home Page to highlight key areas of interest for visitors entering the site from the paid search term “jj esquire”
  4. In contrast, when visitors are coming from the paid search team “jeans”, a greater percent of visitors navigate directly to the Womens section of the site.  This difference in behavior form the Homepage for the “jj esquire” and “jeans” terms further highlight the opportunity to increase conversion by providing a more targeted experience, either through landing pages or targeted offers.

There are many different paths for analysis to find opportunities to optimize your paid search and I have only covered a few of them.  You will notice that with my sample data set, the results of the analysis did not  yield that golden nugget, excitement inducing result, but  I hope that this sample analysis will inspire you in your paid search optimization efforts.  If you have a question that you would really like be to able to answer, but don’t know how to go about it, feel to post it in the comments and we will consider it for a follow-up post.


Ideally, you'd be deep-linking your keywords to the proper pages for each campaign, though you can test effectiveness of dropping visitors for certain terms on the home page, a custom landing page, or right into catalog results (in a retail scenario). One critical factor as well (again, for retail) is tying this data back to products. The relative performance of your products for paid/natural and new/repeat segments can tell you if you have an issue with the SKUs you're showing to new visitors you're acquiring. Demographic info (generally only available with Facebook paid ads, that I'm aware of) can be a dramatic help. I'd also recommend adding a search path here. Some segment (if you have enough traffic) of your visitors are going to perform an on-site search. Affinity between external and on-site keywords can be very actionable for SEM efforts. You might also want to look at low searches (you should have a site search event) and high conversion. That means you're dropping the right term in the right spot, so visitors don't need to search. "Don't make me think", right? Anyway, nice post, Laura.