How to Assess Search & Content Network Advertising using Google Analytics

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As a follow up to our recent post on getting detailed PPC keyword data from Google Analytics, we’ve been looking at more ways to improve the granularity of the referral data from PPC campaigns. For example, if your Google AdWords campaign is being served out over the Google content network, your ads may be showing on many different sites, but these won’t show in the GA reports by default – your referrer in these cases will be ‘Google’. This makes it difficult to assess the profitability of search and content network advertising on all the major PPC engines.

Our Show Referral Data filter displays this information by taking the referral data from the URL and adding it to the PPC referrer reports. With this filter in place, your PPC referrals will look like these examples:

google, www.tripadvisor.com[cpc]
ysm, www2.nuseek.com[ppc]
msuk, search.msn.co.uk[ppc]

Once you have this data, you can exclude selected sites from the Google Content Network (instructions on how to do this for Google are here) if they are not providing a good ROI. Unfortunately, you can’t exclude individual sites from the Google Search Network or from YSM’s Content Match system, but this data can still allow you identify whether or not these network are profitable. If not, you can exclude your ads from the whole of the Google Search Network or YSM Content match.

To implement this filter:

1) Create a new profile that is a copy of your existing one.
IMPORTANT: This filter should be ringfenced in its own profile, as you only want this filter applied to PPC referrals.

2) Add a filter to show only PPC referrals in this profile. This screenshot shows how.

3) Add the filter that shows the Search & Content Network referrer, as per this screenshot.

3) Wait for the data. All referral reports will now show the exact PPC referrer.

Let us know your comments or feedback.

21 Responses to “How to Assess Search & Content Network Advertising using Google Analytics”

  1. LunaMetrics Blog Says:

    Hi GA Experts. I had great success with your last post but have been avoiding this one because I don’t know what the word “Ringfenced” means. (This is a Britishism, no??) I tried define: ringfence but came up empty. I thought it might be a GA thing but no luck there either.

    Were you just saying, make sure that you create another sandbox profile and only apply this filter to that new profile? Add CAUTION – DO NOT USE to the filter name?

    Robbin

  2. GA Experts Says:

    Hi Robbin,

    Thanks for your comments, and apologies for the regional bias:) As you inferred, ‘ringfenced’ basically means set up in a sandbox. If you create a copy of the main profile and then apply this filter to only that copy, then this preserves the data integrity of the main profile.

    As it happens, we have been doing more testing and we’re not sure that this filter does break the non-cpc referrals, but it’s still a good idea to use a sandbox profile, as you will now see many, many more referrals than you did previously – e.g. google, http://www.tripadvisor.comcpc & google, wwww.blueyonder.co.uk[ppc] rather than just google[cpc], and this makes it tough to get the big picture of referral data.

  3. bagman Says:

    If this works, then Awsome! The custom filter seems like it could really be powerful. Although I follow your instructions exactly, I’m not entirely sure what I was doing. I hope there will be future posts along these lines.

    PS is there a way to speed analytics up for realtime information?

  4. GA Experts Says:

    Hi bagman, glad you like the filter, let us know if you have any problems or feedback.

    With regard to real time information, this isn’t something that we think will be coming any time soon to Google Analytics – the processing demands are very high and there are big questions about the actual utility of real time data.

    It sounds great to be able to say that your web statistics are instantly updated, but when you think about it can you actually make use of real time data? I highly recommend this post from Avinash Kaushik who explains, with his usual clarity, why real-time analytics is not all that you think it might be:

    http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/2006/10/is-real-time-really-relevant.html

  5. bagman Says:

    Thx for the info. I do see some data coming through, but most of the hits (272 of 350) seem to be reporting as:
    google,pagead2.googlesyndication.com[cpc].

    95% of our hits comes from Google’s content network BTW.

    Do you know why I can’t get the actual referrer instead of agead2.googlesyndication.com?

    Thanks

  6. GA Experts Says:

    bagman – these are referrals from AdSense users. We see them crop up from time to time in our own reports, although you seem to have a surprisingly high percentage. There is more information here:

    https://adwords.google.co.uk/support/bin/answer.py?answer=35472

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Hi GA Experts, Thanks for your tips. Just as bagman said, I found most of visits are reporting as google.pagead2.googlesyndication.com[cpc] which is from adsense users. Since all the google content website is from adsense users. As result, all the google hits from google content website will be google, pagead2.googlesyndication.com[cpc]. Is it right? So we still don’t know the exact websites from google content hits.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Awesome stuff.. very useful!

    p.s. you have a small numbering typo (please delete this comment as you see fit)

  9. Analytics Says:

    Hi GA Experts, Thanks for your tips. Just as bagman said, I found most of visits are reporting as google.pagead2.googlesyndication.com[cpc] which is from adsense users. Since all the google content website is from adsense users. As result, all the google hits from google content website will be google, pagead2.googlesyndication.com[cpc]. Is it right? So we still don’t know the exact websites from google content hits.

  10. jc@19seventysix.co.uk Says:

    Another question, if I were to remove the first filter restricting only PPC traffic, would it still work properly?

  11. jc@19seventysix.co.uk Says:

    Hi there,

    Great tutorial!

    The first filter restricts hits to just PPC or CPC, I was wondering if one could also restrict the hits by search and content network.

    I would like to have one profile for search ppc and one for content ppc.

    Not sure if that is possible?

  12. StationRoad_Resident Says:

    JC

    I think you are missing the point of the first filter.

    The second filter grabs and combines the referrer with the campaign source. Without the first filter it would do this for all referrers.

    HTH.

  13. jc@19seventysix.co.uk Says:

    Yes, slightly confused, and my questions were phrased poorly.

    I guess firstly I’d like to know if I could use this filter in a single profile and effectively track other hits without confusing things?

    You say it should be ‘ring-fenced’, but are there any negative consequences from running it in one profile without the first filter?

    Secondly, I’m also wondering if it’s possible to easily distinguish referrals from Google’s search network and Google’s content network?

    Taking your example image at the top of your article, how can you tell which referrers come from Google Search Network and which from Google Content Network?

    Really appreciate your help, I’ve been looking for this kind of functionality for weeks now.

  14. Eamonn Mc Greevy Says:

    Greetings GA Experts,

    Thanks for this very useful filter. It’s certainly interesting to see all those extra referring sites, although at the moment, it also includes the main ppc traffic from Google/Yahoo/MSN.

    One of the main benefits of a filter like this would be first to see the conversion figures and second to decide if it’s cost effective to continue advertising on the Google Search Partner site and/or the Content Network. I don’t think there’s much we can do about opting out of the search partner traffic with Yahoo and MSN, right?

    So would it be possible to have a filter, for example, that just includes the Google Search Partner traffic? I was thinking we could just add a 3rd filter to include only source traffic including “google” in the name but that would still allow the main google cpc traffic in.

    For now, I can work with this profile (and a calculator) and apply some extra filtering using those jiggery pokery regular expression thingies in the “Find Source” tool at the bottom of all the reports.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

  15. Philip Lee Says:

    jc asked: “Secondly, I’m also wondering if it’s possible to easily distinguish referrals from Google’s search network and Google’s content network?”
    Great question – I would love to know if it’s possible to distinguish the source: search, content, or placement.
    Perhaps if the referrer contains ‘pagead’ it is from content?
    Can this be distinguished from placed ads?

  16. Eamonn Mc Greevy Says:

    Hi,

    Does anyone have any revenue figures showing from these Search partners? The majority of my traffic is from google.co.uk, yet the only revenue sources showing are google and yahoo. (all search partners show zero revenue)

  17. Jeremy Says:

    I’m not getting any URL referral data using these filters, does anyone know if this method still works?

    - Jeremy

  18. Brian Says:

    I’m seeing the same thing as Eamonn – I get zero revenue from all search partners. When there is a transaction, it drops the URL referral data, and just shows up as either google or yahoo. Haven’t been able to crack that nut yet…

  19. Jan Bednar Says:

    Hello,

    I have 70% from google, pagead2.googlesyndication.com / cpc :( . Although I have auto-tagging on. I guess it might depend on country?
    Is there any way how to crack this one?

    Thx

  20. Dave Says:

    The Link to screenshots are not availble..can you hlep us with the screenshot of the filter..

  21. Yuriy Says:

    Hi. Can you reupload filters screenshots or give a new link to them? Please )

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