Google Analytics provides an overwhelming amount of information, but one of the first reports to familiarize yourself with is the Acquisition report. This report provides analysts with information on the source of traffic and various default metrics that can be changed as needed. At first glance this data may show an SEO analyst that organic traffic has improved (or worsened) since work commenced on a website; however, Google has not mastered traffic data sorting, and the data the SEO analyst is viewing could be inaccurate.

Traffic Source Determination
Data is sorted by the Google Analytics backend into various segments, and within the Acquisition reports data is sorted into paid traffic, direct traffic, referral traffic, and organic traffic. While Google has pre-configured definitions for these channels, users can create new channel groupings or edit the default channel groupings. It should be noted that changing the default groupings will permanently change the raw traffic data. Best practice is to create a new channel grouping if you want to makes changes to where traffic is sorted. Not only will this prevent the raw data from being changed, but the new channel grouping definitions will be applied to historical data, which allows users to evaluate current traffic trends against historical trends using the new definitions.

URL Tagging
Google Analytics sorts traffic data based on the URL a user clicks to get to a page and the page that provided that URL. If a user clicks on a link to your site, and the link is on a search engine results page (SERP), then Google will define the session as an organic source. But what about paid ads on the SERP? In order to distinguish between paid ad traffic and organic traffic, Google Analytics relies on parameters within the destination URL of paid ads to distinguish traffic. By adding the parameter codes into destination URLs, an analyst can help Analytics sort data, as well as create custom campaigns to track which campaigns are most successful. For more information on adding parameters to destination URL, check out the Google Analytics’s URL Builder page. Google provides a URL Builder to help users create destination URLs; and, AdWords can auto-tag destination URLs to simplify the process. These steps can ensure that traffic data is properly processed by Google Analytics, and help you chart the improvements your marketing work has made.

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