I often hear from clients con­cerned that their organic and paid search traf­fic isn’t adding up. These clients will exhaust mul­ti­ple resources try­ing to fig­ure out the prob­lem caus­ing the dis­crep­ancy. How­ever, the issue is typ­i­cally due to one sim­ple prob­lem: improper usage of paid search cam­paign tag­ging.

To bet­ter under­stand this issue, it’s help­ful to give some back­ground on how Omni­ture inter­prets search engine traf­fic. Search detec­tion in Site­Cat­a­lyst relies pri­mar­ily on the refer­ring URL, which is passed into Site­Cat­a­lyst on each page view. If the refer­rer matches a search engine with its cor­re­spond­ing key­word query para­me­ter (e.g. “http://​www​.google​.com/​s​e​a​r​c​h​?​q​=​w​e​b​+​a​n​a​l​y​t​ics”), then the refer­rer and key­word are prop­erly classified.

Search Referral Process

Because the refer­ring URL is the same for both paid and organic click-throughs, all search engine traf­fic is clas­si­fied as organic traf­fic, unless the paid search land­ing page URL is tagged with a cam­paign track­ing iden­ti­fier. When a paid search cam­paign is not tagged, or the paid search detec­tion fil­ters in Site­Cat­a­lyst are not setup prop­erly, search engine traf­fic is not seg­mented cor­rectly. As a result, organic and paid search traf­fic num­bers will not be accurate.

Improper report­ing of search traf­fic can cause major prob­lems for exe­cu­tion, plan­ning, and bud­get­ing of your search mar­ket­ing pro­grams. This can often lead to the mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of large (some­times multi-million dol­lar) paid search cam­paign bud­gets. For this rea­son, paid search should be tagged and tracked like any other cam­paign. For more details on gen­eral cam­paign track­ing see Adam “Omni_man” Greco’s recent post about the value of cam­paign track­ing and how to track them effec­tively in SiteCatalyst.

Tag­ging your paid search cam­paigns involves just a few steps:

  • Step 1: Cre­ate paid search iden­ti­fier: Decide on a scal­able track­ing iden­ti­fier that web ana­lysts and search mar­keters can both agree upon. The sim­pler the track­ing code the better:
    • Exam­ple: http://​www​.your​do​main​.com?kwid=wid­gets
  • In the exam­ple above, the “kwid” query string para­me­ter will be used to iden­tify paid search referrals.
  • Step 2: Setup the paid search detec­tion fil­ter
    • Log in to the Omni­ture Suite.
    • Click Admin > Report Suites
    • Select the desired report suite.
    • Click Edit Set­tings.
    • Select Gen­eral.
    • Click Paid Search Detec­tion. Once in this sec­tion you can setup paid search detec­tion rules with your des­ig­nated query string identifier.

Paid Search Detection setting in SiteCatalyst

  • Step 3: Deploy paid search track­ing on all des­ti­na­tion URLs: Once you’ve decided on a paid search iden­ti­fier and set them up prop­erly in Site­Cat­a­lyst, you need to deploy these track­ing codes on all of your paid search land­ing pages (des­ti­na­tion URLs):
    • Exam­ples:
      • http://​www​.your​do​main​.com?kwid=wid­gets
      • http://​www​.your​do​main​.com?kwid=cranks
      • http://​www​.your​do​main​.com?kwid=gears
  • In this exam­ple, I’ve included the paid search iden­ti­fier, “kwid” fol­lowed by a basic key­word value (i.e. wid­gets, cranks, gears, etc…). This level of track­ing can be expand­ing to include ad groups, text ad ids, etc… The man­ual process of updat­ing des­ti­na­tion URLs is a time-consuming yet worth­while task that ensures Site­Cat­a­lyst can prop­erly iden­tify your paid search traf­fic. It’s impor­tant to note that Search­Cen­ter auto­mates this process by tag­ging all land­ing page URLs for you.
  • Step 4: Reg­u­lar follow-up with Search Mar­ket­ing Team: Once you’ve fully deployed your paid search track­ing codes, fre­quently val­i­date their main­te­nance with your search mar­ket­ing team. Many of the prob­lems with inac­cu­rate paid/organic search track­ing come from the mis­man­age­ment or omis­sion of track­ing codes on des­ti­na­tion URLs. This can be eas­ily avoided through reg­u­lar follow-up.

The issue of paid search tag­ging may seem sim­ple and obvi­ous to some, but just one mis­step can lead to major inac­cu­ra­cies in your data. Fol­low these rec­om­men­da­tions and you can sleep soundly know­ing that you are prop­erly track­ing and clas­si­fy­ing your search engine traffic.

As a senior con­sul­tant for Omni­ture Con­sult­ing Ser­vices, Jor­dan LeBaron leads SEO con­sult­ing ser­vices, pro­vid­ing Omni­ture clients guid­ance on site opti­miza­tion strate­gies and lever­ag­ing their web ana­lyt­ics to drive their SEO efforts. Fol­low Jor­dan on Twit­ter or con­nect with him on LinkedIn.

16 comments
abid
abid

should "sa" be set as a paid detection filter as well. When I hove over ppac ads on Google I see "sa" as a variable that google seems to use for their ads

InteMarket
InteMarket

Does this paid search detection require that getqueryparam is implemented? If not, how does Sitecatalyst get the URL parameter? Also, what's this q= for Google. Never seen that before.

Jordan LeBaron
Jordan LeBaron

You will only see this login if you're an Admin user. You can speak with your Account Manager about the steps needed to make a change.

Edwin
Edwin

I do not see Admin > Report Suites under my account. Is a setting missing in my setup? Please advise.

Video Character
Video Character

I am really new with this organic and paid search detection. I know it has been out for so long but I haven't tried it yet. How can you explain it to me in simple terms. Hope you can help. Thanks!

Emily
Emily

Hi Jordan: We're having trouble with natural search terms not being picked up by Omniture if the user entered a special character in their search. Do you know of anything we can do to resolve this? Using your example above, let's say the user searched for "web analytics & omniture" and clicked on a natural search result. The following would query string would be passed: http://www.google.com/search?q=web+analytics+%26+omniture... It seems, however, that only the "web analytics" search term would show up in the Search Keywords - Natural report in SiteCatalyst. Do you have any thoughts on how to address this issue? Thanks!

marshall
marshall

I setup a kwid identifier under a Keyword category for the SAINT classifications. Now, when I select keyword from the file menu, I get kwid and the number of instances. Will it not show the actual keyword in that campaign report, just that kwid occurred the corresponding number of times that a paid keyword was detected?

Jordan LeBaron
Jordan LeBaron

Jason: If Paid Search Detection isn't setup, all traffic (Paid or Organic) will get tracked, but will get dumped into the "Search - All" traffic buckets

Jason
Jason

If the 'paid search detection' has not been activated, and someone clicks on an un-tagged Google AdWords Ad, does the click even get logged? if so, where does it go?

Jordan LeBaron
Jordan LeBaron

Melissa: you would need to write a script to detect when the referrer is a search engine and then fire off an event. We have some solutions available through Omniture Consulting and/or our Engineering Services Team that can do this, you can reach out to your Account Manager for more information

Melissa
Melissa

Hi, I would like to set up a cusom event whenever someone comes in from search (regardless paid or organic). How can I determine that a referrer is a search engine? Thank you, Melissa

Jordan LeBaron
Jordan LeBaron

Rob: from the "Search Keywords - Natural Report" you can breakdown the keyword by "Traffic Sources > Search Engine - Natural". If you have any problems you can call ClientCare to walk you through these steps.

Rob G.
Rob G.

All set-up. Now, how do I get a report that shows natural verses paid-search keywords by search engine? (Thought I'd find such a report in traffic > finding methods > all search keywords)

Jordan LeBaron
Jordan LeBaron

Hans: setting up the identifier in the Paid Search Detection menu will ensure that your Traffic Sources reports are accurate - and the results will still appear in your Campaign Reports. Adam: Organic Search reporting is enabled out-of-the-box, however, you do need to setup the Paid Search Detection identifier for your search traffic to move from the Search - All reports, to Paid and Natural reports.

Adam
Adam

Stupid question: Isn't organic search enabled out-of-the-box?

Hans
Hans

Hello, we have set up our Google Adwords Campaigns with Omniture tracking links (identifier cid=). The results appear in the Campaigns Reports. Should we set-up this identifier in the paid search detection menu? Will the referrers then still appear in the campaign reports, too?