Tales of Overanalysis: My Organic Traffic Has Tanked!

Dear Michael,
I just implemented AdWords autotagging for my website, and now my organic Google traffic has dropped dramatically. What gives? Is Google Analytics ruining my search rankings? Who do I blame for this? Can you fix it?

Okay. Calm down and breathe. There’s nothing to worry about.

First, the bad news: your organic search traffic wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

But, the good news: now that you’ve turned on autotagging, your Google Analytics profile is more accurate than it has ever been.

Here’s what happened. Without autotagging (and Google Analytics manual tagging, for that matter), all search engine traffic coming to your site is counted as “organic.” Every visit to your site from Google or Yahoo! or MSN that has a search query and is defined in your Google Analytics search engines list1 will be categorized as organic traffic.

This includes paid search links.

So, before you turned on AdWords autotagging and started adding the utm variables to your non-AdWords destination URLs, they were being lumped in with organic traffic. Naturally, when they cease being lumped in with organic, your organic numbers will decrease.

I assure you, though, that your actual natural search traffic isn’t taking a dip. You just weren’t tracking it properly to begin with.

The moral of the story: get your paid search tagged correctly as soon as possible. If you need help, we can either show you how or we can set it up for you.

1There’s a really great article on the Google Analytics search engines list, and how to customize it, up at Brian Clifton’s Advanced Web Metrics blog. Which wasn’t in our blogroll, for some inexplicable reason. My apologies, Brian. It’s there now!