Updated January 04, 2019

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Are you bidding on your brand name in AdWords, YSM, or AdCenter? If you are, there’s a good chance your return on investment for those specific keywords is very good. People searching for your specific brand know what they want and are ready to convert, while your costs remain low. But what if these people are coming back to your site after already having visited from another keyword – maybe one that’s costing you much more money?

Well, there’s a way to limit conversions attributed to your branded keywords, so that you can get information on the original keyword source.


Normally, Google Analytics will report on the most recent non-direct source. What does that mean? A direct visit occurs when a user types in your URL directly, uses a bookmark, or even clicks on a link from an email (if they are using a program like Outlook – webmail is different). For every other kind of visit, like a visit from an AdWords ad, Google Analytics will overwrite any existing source information for the user.

So if I get to your site via the ‘Cheese Rocks’ keyword, but then I later come back to the site from the ‘Cheesemongr.com’ keyword and then convert, the conversion gets attributed to the latest keyword, not the original

If you’re the type of person that would rather have the conversion attributed to the ‘Cheese Rocks’ keyword, then you’ve come to the right place. Setting it up is easy as pie. And who doesn’t like pie?

All you have to do is add the string ‘utm_nooverride=1’ to your existing destination URLs for your branded keywords. If you’re using Google Analytics properly, then you’ve had ample experience with these types of query parameters.

So if you current destination URL for a branded ad reads:

htttp://www.site.com/index.htm

Change it to:

http://www.site.com/index.htm?utm_nooverride=1

Or, if you already have a query parameter, like src=go, change it to:

http://www.site.com/index.htm?src=go&utm_nooverride=1

Now, if a user comes to your site via a branded keyword, it will only be tracked if they do not have any existing cookie data for your site.

Basically, using this method will redistribute your branded conversions to the keywords that were originally responsible for your traffic. It’s by no means necessary, but if your business model fits, it can be a great way to find out which keywords may not be getting the credit they deserve.

A couple of additional notes:

First, this is how Google AdWords Conversion Tracker already tracks things when it comes to non-AdWords return visits. Meaning if I visit the site on Tuesday from AdWords, but come back from a different source and convert later in the week, AdWords will still properly track the conversion. Analytics would normally give the conversion to the second source. This is yet another reason why your conversion numbers will never be the same in both AdWords and Analytics. However, using this method will not affect any of the conversion data you see within AdWords. utm_nooverride only affects data within Google Analytics.

Second, doing this will throw off your cost/revenue numbers in Google Analytics a bit. Even though you are technically spending money on branded keywords, they will no longer be getting credit for all the conversions that occur from them. This isn’t normally a problem, since branded keywords tend to have much higher returns than their more generic counterparts.

So if this is something that interests you, please try it to your heart’s content. As always, I’d love to hear your feedback!

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in more actionable education on Google Analytics, check out our recent report on essential reports for ecommerce retailers!