Could Organic Search be a misleading term?Consider this for a second, when you know which website you want to visit, would you type the full URL into the address bar or would you just type name of the webpage or company and click their listing in the search result? How many percent would do like you?
Not easy to answer, but one thing is for sure. Those visits who begins by clicking on a search result will be identified as Organic Search. So the problem here is that this category is shared between visitors that already know you as well as you direct traffic visitors, and those that found your brilliantly written content marketing article by searching the keywords you had targeted.
Not good. And this is easily forgotten when you try to figure out if your content marketing strategy is working or not comparing to other strategies. Organic search and it's conversion rates are often higher than it should be as it contains amounts of direct visitors that already knows you and are quite further down in your funnel than those you try to attract through content marketing.
How to fix Organic Search in Default Channel Grouping?Sadly, there is no real quick fix to this problem, but read on and I'll share how at least I live with it.
Google Analytics launched a feature aimed for solving this, so that you could count search traffic as direct traffic if the visitor used brand or company names for search. This feature is still available under Property and called Search term exclusions. The problem with this feature is that Google Analaytics does not know which keyword the user came in with through organic search.
Yes, I know this sounds to awful to be true, but I believe this related to privacy concerns and securing personal search information. If the users was logged in when performing the organic search, Google Analytics will show (not provided) in the dimension called "keyword".
If you do check out this report in Google Analytics I'll guess you'll find that only 1-5% of all organic search traffic contains a keyword. Which by the way comes from some other search engines or from Google search by not logged in users. The function Search term exclusions in Google Analytics therefore comes to short in handling this issue.
5 great tips for how to work with the broken Organic Search in Google Analytics
- Use Landingpage as dimension to get a feel for how many visits you get through your content marketing (SEO) vs front page traffic. Those who knows you and visit through brand related search tend to start by visiting your home page rather than your articles.
- Google Search Console shows you how many clicks you get on different search terms. By this you can calculate a percentage split between brand/company related search vs content/product/service related searches. Do not get fooled by having this data. It is aggregated and possible to connect to each unique session to solve this issue. This percentage split however will be helpful to determine how accurately you can trust your conversion rates on Organic Search
- Use the metric "New user" rather than "Users" when evaluating new user acquisition per channel. This will at least will give you a clear, but limited answer.
- Remember content of this article, you are now informed about the issue and can better evaluate reporting accuracy
- Use line graph in All channels report to see trends. By plotting out organic and direct traffic you can easily see if variations in traffic over time is looking consistent or independent between the two
Closing thoughtsYou might think that this is only an issue for established brands, but that is not true. As long as you got any returning visitors, Direct could miss one and Organic could gain one.
"Paid Search" is treated totally different here so keep in mind I am speaking specifically about "Organic search" in this article. An article about Paid search and brand names are coming soon.
Many people loose faith in web analytics when they get to know about issues like this. This is because data analytics is looked up as a whole grail of undisputed evidence. Web analytics is never 100% accurate, but can be pretty high up there. Understand and get your data as clean as possible. Then look upon it as a source of great indications rather than the truth itself. Use web analytics to take, not data driven, but data informed descitions where your personal expert knowledge also should play a significant part.
Hope you know feel glad about by knowing about this issue, and that the bullet points above will strengthen your way of dealing with it from here on.
Wish you a happy analytical day!