Using SiteCatalyst to Manage or Analyze Paid Search

Someone emailed me a question – how do you use SiteCatalyst to manage paid search? My best answer is, you do not.

I’m not saying to avoid using it, but have realistic expectations regarding what it can do for you.

1) Make sure your Google provided, AdWords pixel is set-up properly to measure transactions, leads or whatever it is you’re spending all that money on. That’s free and it works well. One thing to be aware of is the transaction is credited to the “DATE OF THE CLICK” – for a long time I wondered why performance got better over time….it was not an optical illusion.

2) Use SiteCatalyst to identify that your traffic is indeed paid search. The first way to handle this is to update your paid search detection settings – check the screenshot below:


Once you click on paid search detection in admin tools as shown above, you’ll be able to enter a query string parameter that’s consistently in your paid search URL’s. Since you probably have Google Analytics set-up anyway and since you’ve probably linked your AdWords and Analytics accounts, it’s not a stretch to assume that you have ‘auto-tagging enabled’. Here’s further reading on that:

Assuming you do have that enabled, each URL will have something appended to it. Here’s an example from a search I did for ‘web analytics consultant‘ – yes you can get an expert for $10/hr but not me! In fact, my rate is at least an order of magnitude higher so feel free to contact me if you prefer quality work.

Above, note the gclid=gibberish thing. That’s what you want to enter in your paid search detection settings. Ok, you might be wondering, what about the thing after the =? Don’t enter that, “gclid=” is good enough. The crazy alphanumeric string after it will change every click. It’s like a snowflake, no two are ever alike but they’re all cold.

So you’ve done that. Now what reports will be impacted by this? Back in the reporting and analytics section of the world you should have something that looks like this:



The paid distinction runs off your definition of what paid search is under paid search detection. Duh!

BIG PROBLEM – google paid search is encrypted, just like organic search. Translation – it can’t pull the keyword that was formerly accessible as q=what you searched for via the URL. So don’t worry ‘keyword unavailable’ is not an errant expanded broad match result you just spent a ton on 🙂

So after all that work what do we have? Well, you know how much came from Google Paid vs Google Organic. You’ve got your adwords pixel which is a ‘single source attribution’ system and you’re assigning revenue to the date of click. Next time we’ll take a look at why numbers between systems will never match-up and why!


Actually, wait – there’s a masochistic approach I neglected to mention.  You can use Omniture SiteCatalyst Campaign Tracking (gotta get my on-site SEO working) and do the following. Let’s say your campaign tracking parameter is cid. If you don’t know this, check your s_code.js file. If you don’t know that, ask someone else.|adgroupid|keyword

Then, using SAINT classifications set-up a hierarchy like

key, campaign, adgroup, keyword

when you download your saint file, you can copy the key column, then text to columns on the pipe | symbol and you’ll hav a 4 dimensional mapping which has your original string, campaignID, adgroupid and the keyword. Now, this will be the term you bidded on. There are various ways to choose campaignID or adgroup including just using the name of the campaign, or having a reference table, or doing something clever with adwords value track –

You can also have other dimensions, mobile, network, etc…blah blah blah – but that’s your call. I don’t know why you’d do this beyond the fact that many people do. It adds complexity, a different system to manage and conflicting data points. But wait, isn’t that half our lives as data analytics folks?

again – YMMV





paid search expert, sitecatalyst/omniture consultant, professional search engine optimization

Posted in sitecatalyst paid search

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