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Web Site Measurement Hacks by Eric T. Peterson

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Measure Organic Search

Many people think that organic or natural search results are impossible to track. Fortunately, if you’re careful with how you set up your paid search marketing, you often get organic search tracking for free.

Organic search results are those results from Google, Yahoo!, and the other major search engines that are not pay-per-click advertising. If you do any type of paid search marketing [Hack #42] , your site will sometimes appear in both paid and organic result sets, obfuscating the effects of your paid marketing efforts. To resolve this problem and determine accurate return on investment for paid search and site optimization efforts, many marketers attempt to divide search results into distinct groups for paid and organic search. Even if you aren’t investing in pay-per-click search, and therefore are certain your search traffic is organic, measuring the effects of that organic traffic is critical.

The Nature of the Problem

For traffic from a search engine, the key to understanding what terms brought visitors to your site is the referring URL information. The challenge when measuring organic search is telling your web measurement application how to differentiate between paid and unpaid placements.

For example, let’s say you buy the phrase “fresh fruit” at Google and you’re well-ranked in the organic results, so that both results appear on the first page. Regardless of the link a visitor clicks, she arrives at www.bobsfruitsite.com, and the referrer from Google ...

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