Tracking Universal Results and Rankings Revisted

Over the last month or so there have been multiple posts (Joost's was the most popular it seems) about how to track Google rankings via Google Analytics. At first I was quite excited by this idea and I applauded the out of the box thinking. After all, what better way is there to get a picture of what is really appearing in the SERPs than to look at actual traffic? That excitement diminished somewhat when I got through the first article and realized that all I could do was determine if a keyword was on page 1, 2, or 3 of the SERPs. Still, I thought the information might be useful so I made a mental note to test out the Google Analytics filter sometime.

Then very recently there were other articles making the rounds describing a process for tracking organic search visits from universal results. This was particularly interesting to me because I've yet to find rank checking software that recognizes universal results (if you know of one, please let me know). For example, every rank checking software I've tried fails to report that a #1 ranking is actually #11 because there are 10 map listings above it.

I finally got through some basic testing today with both filters. I used two sites: one that is purely informational and one that is ecommerce focused. I followed the instructions and set up new profiles and applied the appropriate filters. Here are my results from the larger dataset of the two I have.

Google Rankings

Out of 35,535 organic search visits from Google, 16 visits were from keywords on page 2 and 7 visits were from keywords on page 3. The rest were either from page 1 or the information wasn't available for Google Analytics to capture. That works out to 99.9% of the keywords driving traffic being on page 1. That shouldn't be surprising given all of the research indicating that users don't go past the first page of results and instead prefer to refine their query. In conclusion I'd say that there's little value in this filter.

Google Universal Results Traffic

Out of 42,853 organic search visits from Google, 42,853 were flagged as not originating from a universal result. This could mean that the result was from a traditional blue link or that the universal result link didn't provide the necessary information for Google Analytics to track it. That number works out to about 98.4% of visits not attributable to universal results. Curiously, the most popular universal search result is ‘spelling' errors at 469 visits. Next up was what I think are map/local related listings at 79 visits.

As with the Google Rankings test, the numbers for Google Universal Results Traffic aren't too impressive. However, I think results will vary greatly depending on the site and so I'd recommend not dismissing this filter. Instead, I'd set it, let it run for a bit, and then assess potential. If at the first time around there's nothing interesting in the data, check back quarterly in case Google includes a new result type or starts to include a greater percentage of blended results into the mix.

Anyone have other Google Analytics filter ideas? Send my way and I'd be happy to test them out.

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