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Organic Search Noticeably Absent From Google Analytics 2013 Summit

Rebecca Murtagh
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What is Missing

Google says it wants to help businesses put together an accurate image of their customers through Google Analytics. Google Analytics is being used by organizations around the world to drive creativity, innovation, and smarter business decisions.

The next great leaps will be made using "intuition and empathy", said Paul Muret, Google Analytics VP of engineering, during his introduction to the 2013 Google Analytics Keynote.

The annual summit came just days after Google moved entirely to secure search, turning Google keyword data into "(not provided)", essentially eliminating access to insights related to organic search engine traffic. Some hoped the Google Analytics Annual Summit would offer some hope to businesses reliant upon organic traffic to sustain their businesses.

There is much to be learned from the conference keynote, which featured an array of product enhancements. However, organic search was absent from the discussion about how Google Analytics could be used to support business decisions.

Omission of Organic Search Data Eliminates a Fully Accurate Image of Customers

Google invites Google Analytics Certified Partners and Google Analytics Premium customers to the annual summit in Mountain View, California. With an annual licensing fee for Google Analytics Premium at $150,000, it's safe to say that this audience represents the largest Google customers. Even these organizations rely upon some level of organic search engine traffic.

Yet, the absence of organic search and related behaviors was an obvious omission from the discussion around data-driven decisions. Google doesn't seem to be particularly interested in sharing organic insights. This presents an obvious gap in data.

The emphasis of metrics over the entire data set of audience, behaviors, and conversions was framed in the discussion of campaigns.

Every marketing organization will have three key areas of impact, Muret said:

  • Budgets and Bids: Helping users decide where to invest resources, allocating between search and display, YouTube, and various other online opportunities.
  • Optimizing Campaigns: Once a decision is made on where to invest, there are opportunities to optimize the campaigns themselves. Keyword lists, geo-location targeting, time of day, etc.
  • User Experience: After investing money to drive traffic, consideration is what is shown to visitors. What engagement experience is the brand trying to create?

Google Analytics offers an "Opportunity Matrix", which presents Access and Empower as pre-requisites to see opportunities and insights to guide aggregate action, and automated action.

Data-Driven Opportunity Matrix

Organic search and content are excluded from the Data-Driven Opportunity Matrix and for good reason: the data is no longer available.

Google Wants You to Understand the Full Customer Journey

Attribution modeling identifies the entire customer journey, to enable informed investment throughout the journey, not just the last click. Should it then be as important to match the investment in creating a quality website, content and user experience for organic search customers with equal analysis and action?

The Direct Opportunity

Google Analytics seeks to replace "blind spots," bit by bit, with insights on which customers are and bring businesses closer to their customers.

70-plus Google Analytics Launches

Babak Pahlavan, Director of Product Management at Google Analytics put emphasis on the era we live in as full of data-driven opportunities. Google believes it is their job to enable Google Analytics users to overcome challenges resulting from the ever-changing landscape, explore data, and tap into opportunities presented.

He then went on to explain how "very busy" Google Analytics has been with 70+ product launches for Google Analytics in 2013 before sharing 14 product announcements.

14 New Google Analytics Product Announcements at 2013 Summit

1. Auto-Event Tracking for GTM (Google Tag Manager)

Google Analytics wants to make sure all the people in the organization have access to data. The challenge is to capture data generated by a multi-device platform.

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is designed to enable deployment of tags across all properties, takes care of tagging without editing HTML and including Google Tag Manager for Mobile, which enables tracking for native apps from the server side.

2. Enterprise Level GTM

Google Tag Manager 'Premium Service Level Agreement' will be rolling out Q4 2013 for GA Premium users.

3. Universal Analytics Migration

Achieving cross-device measurement is needed to understand and respond to the exploding adoption of internet-connected devices and the multi-device user decision process.

Universal Analytics is new measurement protocol originally announced at 2012 Summit. Tracking has evolved from dropping cookies for browser-side session tracking, Google is moving to server-side. Doing so enables Google Analytics to provide multi-device tracking – demonstrating whether the visitor that came via PC also visited by way of mobile device, and providing data reflecting visitor behavior.

Google Analytics will now assign a user "ID" for every "hit". Essentially, the creation of a user ID is generated by the website, not by Google Analytics. The initial push-back of having to create new properties to track after GA users have invested so much into their existing Google Analytics accounts.

Google Analytics agreed and announced Universal Analytics Migration will (to be available "soon") enable users to take advantage of the cross-device management protocol.

Additional announcement made at this time:

AdWords is connecting the dots to capture "leaked" conversions (cross-device) with estimates. No action is required on behalf of Google AdWords Users currently using conversion tags to take advantage of campaign performance across all properties.

4. Management UI and API

Account and Employee Access Management API will enable organizations to grant access to internal resources such as employees, making life easier for big customers.

5. New ABC Report: Acquisition Overview

In an attempt to provide insights related to ABC's (Acquisitions, Behavior, and Conversions), Google said they thought they could do better delivering insight related to Goals, Pages and Traffic. This includes generic organic search data, social media and other traffic insights. It seems it will not, however, include all-precious organic keyword insights that users have grown accustomed to.

Google Analytics Acquisition Overview

The Acquisition Report will help brands determine which channels acquire the most users, attract users that will engage most with the website, and result in the most conversions.

Google Analytics offers the following additional insight:

Channels in the Acquisition reports are rule-based groupings of the most-common sources of traffic, and include:

  • Generic Organic Search: The search engines from which traffic originated
  • Referral: The domains from which referrals originated
  • Generic Paid Search: The paid keywords, matched search queries, and campaigns from which traffic originated
  • Display: The display-ad content and campaigns from which traffic originated
  • Email: The email campaigns from which traffic originated

This is currently available to 50 percent of users, and will be available to 100 percent of users over the next few weeks.

6. New Unified Segments Tool

Google Analytics "power users" are typically accessing advanced segment capabilities of GA, Pahlavan said. However, in the spirit of making data available to the entire organization, the new 'Audience Overview' user interface provides segmentation of data the way users want to see it and the ability to drill deeper into audience reports.

7. Demographic Reporting

One item Google says has been missing from GA reporting is the ability to look at demographics of users in a variety of reports. Audience Data and Reporting will now make demographic data (age, gender, interests, etc.). based on classifier Google has been working on for years.

8. Demographic Data Available in All Reporting Areas

Capturing data and the ability to analyze entire data sets based on demographics will be made available from any Google Analytics report. To generate this data, GA requires inclusion of the analytics.js JavaScript snippet on the website.

9. BigQuery Meets Google Analytics

Google's Cloud Team created BigQuery, which enables scalable storage. GA will natively integrate into BigQuery. It will ingest a "ton of data," integrate third-party data, and enable queries in SQL language.

BigQuery at a Glance

BigQuery has many hooks into Google Applications and external applications (examples were not offered) and will now accept GA exports from Google Premium sessions into BigQuery. This feature will be available exclusively for Google Analytics Premium customers. Google is offering a $500 per month credit for GA Premium users to begin utilizing the Google Analytics + BigQuery integration.

10. DoubleClick Campaign Manager Integration (Pilot)

Google Analytics will leverage insights from paid campaigns to display impact of display campaign on the overall business as reflected in GA. identify remarketing opportunities to capture lost conversions from high-potential users.

11. Attribution Modeling

The DoubleClick Campaign Manager Integration will allow import of data into GA channel funnels to gain merged insights in perspective to site-wide site behaviors and conversions.

12. Google Play and Google Analytics Integration

GA will integrate the full conversion path of campaigns, including Campaign clicks, Play Store views, Installs, New Users,and Installs resulting from Google Search (including Google Organic) through an exclusive view into the Google Play Store data that has never been available before.

13. Google Analytics Academy

Google is launching Google Analytics online training for users. A two-week course to enable users throughout the organization. The first Google Academy course is launching in mid-October 2013.

14. Google Analytics In-Product Help Videos

In-product help videos are now available throughout the GA interface, available to explain, expand and guide users through proper implementation and reporting.

What Can we Glean From This Keynote?

Pay No Attention to Free Traffic

We all know that optimization for search isn't really free. It requires an investment in resources, often a significant investment for businesses reliant upon organic search engine traffic to attract new customers. Organic search is not considered a high-value data set in the eyes of Google, even if it is a primary source of traffic for businesses around the world.

This keynote was delivered just days after Google encrypted all organic search data, eliminating granular insights of keyword and search behavior as it related to content. The expectation was that there may be at least some mention of the removal of this data – or perhaps some consolation to those who rely upon Google Analytics to measure behavior of visitors that came by way of organic means (such as search and referrers). But there was none.

This is a blow to organizations of all sizes included in the widespread adoption of Google Analytics to assess website performance and make informed decisions that relate to their bottom line.

In the context of Google Knowledge Graph, the semantic web, Hummingbird, Penguin, Panda, and performance of the website as a business asset, Google Analytics may have little value to those who aren't reliant upon paid traffic as a primary source of website traffic – perhaps by design.

Show Me the Money

Google Analytics is increasingly focused on topics that were typically addressed in Google AdWords. There was no mention at all of Google Webmaster tools in this keynote – suggesting that the analytics tool is more interested in becoming the companion to revenue-generating advertisers, than to providing website owners and webmasters insights related to creating quality websites.

Google Analytics is becoming increasingly robust. In becoming more robust, it is also more complex and likely to be a barrier to widespread adoption to "everyone in the organization" as Google intends.

Those reading this will likely have no problem learning new methods to track audiences, behaviors, and conversions, and adapting planning and investment according to new insights and data. However, getting others throughout the organization to become more comfortable in accessing or leveraging insights gained from Google Analytics may be more difficult.

View Google Analytics Summit 2013 Keynote Video

You can view the entire video here:

Can Google Analytics serve businesses reliant upon organic search? Or, will they need to invest more in display and PPC to gain any meaningful insight from Google Analytics in the future?


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