This post will focus on how to set up Paid and Nat­ural Search rules in the Site­Cat­a­lyst Mar­ket­ing Chan­nel Report. If you fol­lowed the pre­vi­ous post and cre­ated your Chan­nel Names, now it is time to set the rule logic.

Mar­ket­ing Chan­nel Pro­cess­ing Rules are applied to all incom­ing traf­fic and fol­low a ‘water­fall’ order. This means that all traf­fic pings the first rule, entries that match the rule are cat­e­go­rized under first chan­nel and every­thing that doesn’t match moves to the sec­ond rule. Hits that match the 2nd rule are cat­e­go­rized under that chan­nel and every­thing else flows to the 3rd rule…and so on and so forth until all traf­fic is accounted for. Because of this logic pat­tern the order of the rules is crit­i­cal. I rec­om­mend this order:

  1. Paid Search
  2. Nat­ural Search Branded
  3. Nat­ural Search Unbranded
  4. All other chan­nels with cam­paigns that use a track­ing code (Ban­ner, Email, etc.)
  5. Other Cam­paigns (catch-all for track­ing code cam­paigns that have not been buck­eted into a cat­e­gory above, or pre­fix syn­tax not used
  6. Organic Social Networks
  7. Affiliate/Partner (if using)
  8. All other chan­nels based on spe­cific refer­ring domains
  9. Inter­nal (rename to ‘Ses­sion Refresh’ for less confusion.)
  10. Direct (typed/bookmarked)
  11. Refer­ring Domains

The paid search rule has luck­ily already been set up, and as long as you are using the query string para­me­ter listed in Paid Search Detec­tion in the Admin con­sole Paid Search will auto­mat­i­cally be buck­eted in the proper channel.

Ver­ify that Paid Search Detec­tion has been set up cor­rectly by going to: Admin > Report Suites > (choose report suite) > Edit Set­tings > Gen­eral > Paid Search Detection

Paid Search Detection

If the query string para­me­ter your site uses for Paid Search track­ing is not in the list add it now.

At this point we have a few options. If your mar­ket­ing team under­stands clas­si­fi­ca­tions, loves them, uses them and main­tains them reg­u­larly then you may just want the Paid Search Chan­nel to dis­play the track­ing code in the report rather than the ‘Search Engine + Search Key­word’. Don’t worry about split­ting paid search into Branded vs. Unbranded since likely your Ad groups will already do this (and have more detail). You can set up clas­si­fi­ca­tions on the paid search track­ing codes and get all the report­ing ever wanted after the rules are in place (we will cover clas­si­fi­ca­tions in a later post as well).


Also, be aware that Paid Search Con­tent Net­work ads will not dis­play in the Paid Search chan­nel by the default rule. This is because the default rule looks for searches ‘from known search engines that con­tain a key­word and the paid search detec­tion query string para­me­ter’. There is some debate on whether to include Con­tent Net­work Ads in the Paid Search Chan­nel, if your orga­ni­za­tion prefers to see all Paid Search efforts com­bined and you are dis­play­ing Track­ing Code instead of key­word in the reports, then set the Paid Search rule to include both ‘Query String Para­me­ter val­ues that start with XXOR ‘Matches the Paid Search Detec­tions Rules’.

If your Paid Search track­ing codes are cryp­tic, and like the rest of us and you have good inten­tions of using clas­si­fi­ca­tions but rarely upload them, then have the report dis­play ‘engine:keyword’ instead of the track­ing code and cre­ate 2 rules: one for ‘Paid Search: Branded,’ another for ‘Paid Search: Unbranded’ in order to keep in line with the Nat­ural Search Chan­nel reports. In this case Con­tent Net­work Ads will need to go to ‘Other Cam­paigns’ or a sep­a­rate ‘Con­tent Net­work’ chan­nel altogether.

For ‘Paid Search: Branded’ you will use the default paid search rule, but add a 2nd part of the rule that looks for ‘Search Keyword(s) that con­tain’. The rule is case insen­si­tive, so you don’t need to worry about list­ing ‘Key­word’ and ‘key­word’. Also, because we’re using ‘con­tains’ logic you only need the low­est com­mon denom­i­na­tor in a phrase, like ‘Adobe’ instead of ‘Adobe Con­sult­ing’. Also, be sure to include any com­mon mis­spellings of your branded key­words. Next, have the channel’s value set to Search Engine + Search Keyword.


To set the ‘Paid Search: Unbranded’ rule just set the default rule under the Branded rule. Because the water­fall logic all of the branded words will be taken out in the 1st rule and only Unbranded will be left.

Nat­ural Search rules should fol­low Paid Search. The process is the same, set up a rule for ‘Nat­ural Search: Branded’ and ‘Nat­ural Search: Unbranded’. Use the default ‘Matches Nat­ural Search Detec­tion Rules’ when cre­at­ing the rules, adding your key­words for the branded rule.

Search Channel Rules

We’ll fin­ish set­ting up the rest of the chan­nel rules in the next post.

Jeremy Pyne
Jeremy Pyne

Any idea why my First Touch Channel Ses­sion Refresh/Internal bucket is getting close to 20% of all visits allocated to it.  Is there any way to adult the session timeout or force this to not overwrite an existing First Touch Channel.  I can't imagine  why there would be anything in First Touch/Session refresh at all, let alone 25%….