When doing search engine optimization, either for clients or as an in-house marketer, we must accurately measure the impact SEO is making on our websites, leads and revenue.
Measuring our success in SEO helps us to justify the importance of its role in marketing, ensure budget allocation and solidify our roles in the organization. Tracking these statistics can literally mean the difference between keeping your job or not.
One trusty tool in our bag of resources has often been Google Analytics. Last year, BuiltWith reported that 69.5 percent of Quantcast’s Top 10,000 sites (based on traffic) were using Google Analytics. If you’re using Google Analytics, though, are you truly tracking your organic traffic accurately?
Launched in 2012, Google Universal Analytics came out of beta in April 2014. For those of us who had been using the original Google Analytics (now called Google Classic Analytics), Google first gave us the choice to upgrade. But eventually, Google decided to sunset Classic Analytics, and all sites were required to upgrade to Universal Analytics. If site owners didn’t upgrade manually, Google would automatically upgrade the sites. At this point, Google has now upgraded all properties to Universal Analytics.
Universal and Classic Analytics differ in how they track site sessions by default. While both versions of Google Analytics defaulted the session timeout to 30 minutes, Classic Analytics did not trigger a new session when the session arrived from a referral. So what does that mean?
Distilled wrote a great piece on their blog earlier this year about how Universal Analytics tracks a bit differently from Classic Analytics and how that can affect session tracking. A session measures activities by a visitor on your site during a visit and a period of time.
Since sessions are automatically timed to be 30 minutes (unless you change this setting), site visitors who start navigating your site but become inactive and then resume more than 30 minutes later are starting a second session. In Classic Analytics, if the visitor arrived by a certain channel (such as a organic search) and that session timed out, the visitor’s new session when he/she resumed activity would remain as the original channel (organic search):