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What Is the Best Way to Track Organic Conversions?

The nuance of measuring organic conversions is much more complex. The first step is to understand what a conversion is on your site.

What Is the Best Way to Track Organic Conversions?

Editor’s note: “Ask an SEO” is a weekly column by technical SEO experts Shelly Fagin, Ryan Jones, Adam Riemer, and Tony Wright. Come up with your hardest SEO question and fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!


This week for “Ask An SEO”, we have a question from Francesca. She asks:

“What is the best way to track organic conversions? Which tool/method?”

This seemingly simple question has a lot of answers.

And as with many questions surrounding SEO, the overarching answer is – it depends.

On the surface, measuring organic conversions is pretty straightforward.

Most SEO professionals use Google Analytics to track conversions.

Google Analytics is simple to set up and it’s free.

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Put some code on your site, set up some goals, and look at your reports to see how your organic traffic is performing.

But the nuance of measuring organic conversions is much more complex.

The first step is to understand what a conversion is on your site.

A conversion is an action – or series of actions – you want a visitor to take while they are on your site.

Different Types of Conversions

The most obvious conversions are things like sales and leads, but for many, conversions can go far beyond just the end goal of a transaction.

For example, some sites desire users to visit specific areas or their site – or want those visitors to spend more time in certain sections of their site.

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You can even track events that happen within a specific page using Google Analytics.

These conversions can be tracked using Google Analytics event tracking.

Moving Beyond Last Click

The most common mistake we see in tracking conversions is when site owners only track the last click in a conversion path.

In many cases, this is a mistake.

It is important to understand the entire customer journey – and merely tracking the last click isn’t enough.

Many years ago, I ran paid search for Gateway Computers.

Our paid search efforts were very successful.

They were so successful that the marketing team decided to cut all television and print budgets and give them to the paid search team.

We were beyond excited.

Things went well for about six months.

Then the volume of conversions we were seeing dropped dramatically.

You see, what we figured out later was that the last click – the sale of a computer – was being driven by our paid search efforts.

But the steps the consumer took to get to that last click were supported by the television and print campaigns.

Once these campaigns were removed, there was nothing to push the consumer into the conversion funnels we had created.

We started losing sales to competitors.

Before we could correct this, the company was sold, so we never were able to completely see the lifecycle of the customer journey.

The Holy Grail: Multi-Channel Attribution

In an ideal world, marketers would be able to see every touchpoint a consumer makes before buying.

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In the past, tracking multiple consumer touchpoints was difficult and required expensive tools.

But Google Analytics now has tools to help us view the customer journey.

When you log in to your Google Analytics account, you will now see an “Attribution” tab on the left-side navigation.

In this tab, you can see how to perform what is called Multi-Channel attribution.

Once you are familiar with the tool, there are literally hundreds of ways you can track the customer journey.

But to start, Google has provided us with “default attribution methods”.

These are:

  • Last interaction model: This is the “last click” model. This gives all credit to the action that spurred the last click before the conversion takes place.
  • First interaction model: This model gives all credit to the start of the conversion path – the first click that puts a customer on its journey.
  • Linear attribution model: In this model, all the touchpoints in a customer journey are given equal credit for the conversion.
  • Time decay attribution model: In this model, touchpoints that are closer to the conversion receive more credit.
  • Position-based attribution model: In this model, 40% of the credit is given to the first click, 20% is given to clicks in the middle of the journey, and 40% credit is given to the last click that spurs the conversion.
  • Last non-direct click: In this model, all of the credit is given to touchpoints that occur before the last non-direct click in a conversion path.
  • Last ad click: In this model, all of the credit is given to the last paid advertisement clicked before the conversion is given all of the credit for the sale.
  • Data-driven attribution model: In this model, Google Analytics uses an algorithm to assign credit throughout the conversion journey.
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As you can see, even with just these pre-defined attribution models, there are hundreds of ways to slice, dice, and weigh which actions get credit for conversions.

The best way to learn about attribution modeling is to play around with it. You can do this by practicing in the Google Analytics Demo account.

By practicing in the demo account, you don’t have to worry about messing up your own data.

Of course, there are many other nuances to measuring organic conversions, and there is a lot of documentation out there on ways to do this.

Have fun learning about all of them.

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Tony Wright

CEO at WrightIMC

I am a 19-year veteran of the digital marketing world with previous experience in journalism, public relations and advertising. I've ... [Read full bio]

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