Little in life is more embarrassing, it seems, than tooting your horn about the success of the organic campaign you manage…only to find that it isn’t accurate. It happens and it seems like it occurs quite often. It’s sad to say that even though you have to take SEO tool data with a grain of salt, you have to do the same with analytical data if you fear you might be making simple mistakes in tracking. Nonetheless, it is time to alleviate those fears by addressing the simple mistakes that might leave you red-faced in the boardroom.
The following are the six most frequently occurring conversion tracking mistakes I see being made that you yourself may be falling victim to. Shhh, don’t worry, I have made these mistakes, too!
Organic Conversions Are Looking Really Good…
Not Restricting Conversion Page From Search Engine View
Whenever I review organic conversions in Google Analytics I exercise the practice of reviewing the landing page they entered on the site. For a very large site this can be time-consuming. If this is the case, you may want to simply do a filtered search for landing pages containing text that your conversion page URL also includes, i.e. /thank-you.
If you do see your conversion page showing up as a landing page referral from organic traffic, the likely culprit is that you have not excluded the conversion page URL from search engine view. Help alleviate this problem by placing a Meta robots noindex tag in the Head section of page source code.
PPC Slipping Into Organic
Another similar issue that I often see is the bleed of paid traffic into organic traffic referrals. I will admit I do not see this as often as I used to, as Google has a better understanding of gclid parameters and also with the integration in the Property Setting section of the Google Analytics. If you have not done this, please visit Admin>>Properties>>AdWords Linking and add your MCC account ID to bridge AdWords with your Google Analytics.
If you are advertising outside of AdWords in Bing or Yahoo, then you want to make sure you have integrated Google Analytics with these channels via UTM tagging of destination URLs to feature the medium of “cpc” and the source of either of Yahoo or Bing. Since you have now completed this integration and everything will be tracking properly moving forward, let’s go see if there are obvious signs of organic PPC “slippage.”
If you have dedicated landing pages that have been roboted out, then it is simply a process of reviewing organic landing pages to filter for the folder or naming conventions of those dedication landing pages.
If you see a dramatic increase in organic conversions, view a line graph over the last few months with lines separated by channels, specifically, paid search vs. organic. If paid conversions dip as organic conversions rise, then you may need to start doing a little more digging.
Organic Conversions Are NOT Looking So Hot…
No Tagging on Landing Page
It is quite imperative (common sense) to have analytics tracking code on each page. While these can leave you with pageview downtrends because you have this tracking loss on important pages, this can also have an effect on channel attribution of conversions. How so, you ask? If you lose Google Analytics tracking on an important page of the site, someone organically lands on this page and then moves onto another tracked page and into a conversion, the credit goes to the direct channel. This is because once someone reached a tracked page, Google Analytics doesn’t understand that they entered via the Organic channel. As we did above, take a look at direct vs. organic conversions. Additionally, run a site scraping crawl such as ScreamingFrog with a custom look for pages not including your “UA-“Google Analytics property ID.
Unaccounted for Organic Conversions (PDFs)
Above, I provided the insight on channel attribution confusion from Google Analytics. I have said many times, I freaking hate PDFs for the lack of Google Analytics tracking we have for them. Let us pretend for a moment that we have many, many PDFs indexed and ranking well.
In the example above, this site has 20 percent of their organic search exposure showing PDFs. If these PDFs have prominent links or calls to action in the PDF first page, chances are they are driving traffic and converting and the direct channel is getting the credit. This is because the PDFs do not have the ability to possess analytical tracking code. P.S. Create HTML versions of these pages and when they overtake PDFs, add these PDFs to the robots.txt file.
Managed Organic Traffic Reporting as Referring Site Traffic
I have not seen this that much, but is has been a head-scratcher in the past. The issue is that site visits are passing through a third party before being passed to the site. As an example, I saw organic traffic/conversions plummet. After a deep review I wondered why mobile organic dropped greatly and homepage referring site mobile traffic picked up the increase. The client had utilized a solution called Dudamobile, which created a mobile site that went through Dudamobile from Google before passing the visit onto the client site.
Conversion Goal Set Is Similar to Non-Conversion URLs
Conversion goal setup in Google Analytics is something you don’t want to take lightly. Setting up a wrong match type can report conversions that necessarily are not conversions. It is always the safest measure to track a conversion to an exact URL. If you utilize separate URL structures for the same conversion, then I can see using Regular Expressions. If you are using session IDs, for example, then “Begins With” may be your best solution. However, if you are loosely assigning a “Begins With” structure, you may be picking up page views as conversions that are not exactly the conversion thank-you page.
Are We “Tracking” Now?
As with other topics in search, these aren’t the only issues that may be causing inaccurate organic conversion data. It is, however, the most common issues that I have run into. I hope that this is a little refresher in knowing the authenticity of organic data and its accuracy. Knowing you are right makes “tooting your horn” about organic success a little safer.