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EWB Analytics Blog

Organic Traffic From Search Engine 'Search' Explained

Elizabeth Brady

Some sites show a surprisingly high volume of search from the organic search engine ‘Search’ in Google Analytics. 

Is this traffic really all from the search engine Search.com?  Search.com does exist, and is reported as the source ‘Search,’ however two Google Analytics code particularities explain most of the volume. Google states that Search.com is included on its list of default search engines however when I tested a flow from search.com the Google Analytics cookie recorded the visits a ‘referral’ visit, rather than an organic visit, so I am not convinced that any of the ‘Search’ traffic is actually from Search.com.

When analyzing one client’s organic search from January 2012 I was surprised to see ‘Search’ volume equal to 1 percent of Google’s (especially considering that I could not reproduce a visit recording as ‘organic).  This seemed suspiciously high.

With a code release in February 2012, Google explained that it had been rolling up several smaller organic search engines as ‘Search’.  'Conduit.com', 'babylon.com', 'search-results.com', 'avg.com', 'comcast.net' and 'incredimail.com', all had previously been rolled into 'search'.  Since February 2012, they show up as unique search engines.  As expected, the ‘Search’ traffic for the client in question plummeted after the February code release:

 

 

For sites that continue to show a significant volume from ‘Search’ after February, check for another obscure Google Analytics particularity.  Cross –subdomain implementations (subdomain1.example.com, subdomain2.example.com) with a search results page of search.example.com, combined with the query string ‘q’, will record the click to the search results as new visit from the organic search engine ‘Search’ as documented by Google.

To correct this, Google recommends adding a line of code (_addIgnoredRef()) to record the traffic as ‘direct’ instead of organic. 

This will still create 2 visits (the second as ‘direct’ instead of ‘Search) and will not cohesively link pre and post search behavior.  Better yet, reconfigure the search query string parameter to use something other than ‘q’.    Another option would be rewrite the search query parameter using ‘_trakPageview’.  To rewrite /searchresults?q=test the trackPageview line of code on the search results page would need to be customized:

  _gaq.push(['_trackPageview',’/searchresults?term=test’]);

Organic search from the source ‘Search’ before February 2012 represents a roll-up of several smaller search engines. For high volume 'Search' traffic after February 2012, modify cross-subdomain sites with a search.example.com subdomain to use (either at the search engine level or in the data passed to Google Analytics) a query string parameter other than ‘q’.