eg. Facebook or Google Analytics
Image of a Google Analytics Dashboard

Gavin Hirst - Wednesday 5th February 2020


What is the best way to track organic conversions?

At the outset, this question seems pretty simple. Google Analytics is surely the best way to track organic conversions right?

Well, yes and no is the answer to that.

There is no doubting that Google Analytics (GA) is the most commonly used tool for tracking organic conversions. It’s also true that GA does a great job at providing information about organic conversions.

The real question at hand is not so much to do with the tool you use to measure your organic conversions, but what it is that you exactly want to measure and at what stage of a user’s journey does that path to conversion begin?

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is undoubtedly the go-to tool for SEOs when it comes to tracking traffic and measuring conversions.

It’s simple to set up and best of all, it’s a free tool.

The set up process is pretty straightforward. Add some code to your site, determine some goals and then look at the reports in the easy-to-use dashboard to find out how your site is performing.

Job done right?

Not quite. One of the key things to understand is that GA can only provide data on the things you ask it to measure. Sure there are some basic metrics that are part of the standard set up, however if you want Google to tell you how many people click on a specific call to action button on a page, or how many people click on the ‘Send email’ button, you’re going to need to set up a specific goal for that, otherwise the ‘conversion’ won’t be measured.

What is a conversion?

This brings us nicely round to conversions themselves.

What exactly is a conversion?

A conversion is an action, or in some cases, a series of actions, that you want users to take when they visit your website. These are bespoke to you and your website and should be carefully mapped out and implemented in GA.

For e-commerce sites, a conversion may seem simple. Did someone click and purchase a product on my website? And whilst this is true, there is actually a lot of other factors that need to be taken into consideration when thinking about that specific conversion (more of that below).

For sites that don’t have an e-commerce functionality (and even for those that do), a conversion may be getting someone to make an enquiry (by phone, email or contact form), request directions, visit a specific page on your website or spend longer in certain areas of your website.

If my site is focussed on engagement and I create a lot of blog content, a ‘conversion’ may be to get people spending more than 2 minutes on blog posts for example. Each time they do, this is classed as a conversion.

There are many different types of conversion so understanding what is most relevant to your business is the starting point and then you need to map these out in GA.

Attribution

Getting into the nitty gritty details of tracking organic conversions, attribution is a key factor that you need to consider.

The standard way that conversions are attributed in GA is by last click – in other words, if somebody converts on your website, where did that visitor come from on the visit that led to the conversion? Whether this is organic, paid, social, direct, email or another source, the attribution of that conversion will go to the source where the last click came from.

We believe that only looking at last click attribution is a mistake.

It is important to understand the who journey a buyer takes in order to get to that final conversion.

Conversion Attribution
In this example, we can see that a lot of conversions are attributed to Direct on last click, however both Paid and Organic feed these customers into the funnel when we look at first click

We work with a client, creating content on a highly successful blog which drives a lot of monthly traffic to their website. One day they came to us to talk about why the blog wasn’t generating more sales. After all, they had invested a lot of time and money into the blog and they wanted to see a return on that investment.

Using last click attribution, we were seeing around 2-3 sales per month coming from users that had landed on the blog section and then gone on to make a purchase using last click attribution.

Instead, we started to look at other attribution models and using a first click attribution model – basically looking at the first time a user ever visited the site, we suddenly saw those sales jump up to 20-30 sales per month.

The blog was basically driving a lot of first time visitors to the site who may not necessarily be ready to make a purchase there and then. They would, however, come back later and end up making a purchase but they may come to the site via direct or even paid. Under last click attribution, this sale was being attributed to another channel, however really, the blog had done all the hard work getting the customer into the funnel in the first place.

It should be noted that we don’t necessarily think this is the best way of attributing a conversion either. In between the first visit and the final conversion, there could have been any number of further touchpoints in the customer’s path to conversion but it certainly opened our eyes to the value of the blog.

How to set up attribution models

Within GA, Google already has a series of pre-defined attribution models that you can play about with. These include:

  • Last Interaction
  • Last Non-Direct Click
  • Last Google Ads Click
  • First Interaction
  • Linear
  • Time Decay
  • Position Based

This post will not go in to detail about how to use each of these conversion attribution models – you can read more about them here.

What is important to understand is that there are different models out there so knowing what you want to track when it comes to conversions is a big part of the process – once you have determined what a conversion looks like for you business and how you want to track and measure it, GA will be able to support you in setting these up.

Summary

Google Analytics remains the go-to tool for tracking organic conversions – the big thing that business and website owners must decide is what does a conversion look like and where does that path to conversion begin. If you have questions about your GA set up, please feel free to drop us a line and we will be more than happy to talk to you about more accurately reporting the things that are most important to your business.

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