Tracking Referrals from Second Page of Google in Google Analytics

I have been experimenting with some advanced features in Google Analytics over the last couple of days. I was inspired by some very clever insights from Search Laboratory (sphinn it here) that we have found very useful.

I wanted to be able to use Google Analytics to find referrals from the second (and greater) pages of Google search results (details at the end on how to do this for Yahoo! and Live). We find this data hugely useful during SEO projects because if you are ever getting decent traffic from page 2 (or any traffic from pages 3+) that indicates a huge opportunity for increased traffic. Sometimes this can be done just with on-page changes, sometimes it needs some more links, but it’s almost always worth it. Up till now, we have had to gather this data with additional third-party tools or log file analysis, but since the vast majority of our clients use GA, it is worth the effort to work out how to do it.

So enough fluff. How do you do it?

Start by creating a new profile for the site:

Note that Google Analytics profiles do not dynamically apply to previously-collected data, unlike segments which make an appearance later in this technique, so you need to do this in advance of needing the data.

Once you have a new profile, edit it and add a filter:

Set that filter up exactly as this image shows:

The text in the Field A —> Extract A box is (?|&)(start)=([^&]*)

This is a regular expression which extracts the parameter called ‘start’ from the referring URL. Google uses this to determine which page of results to display (page 2 is start=10, page 3 is start=20 etc. for anyone with the default settings of 10 search results / page). If you want to set this up for Yahoo!, they use a parameter called ‘b’ and b=11 is page 2, b=21 is page 3 etc. Live uses the same numbering scheme with a parameter called ‘first’. So replace ‘start’ with ‘b’ for Yahoo! and ‘first’ for Live (and remember that you need a different segmentation below).

Once you have your filter defined, that includes the output into the User-Defined field (that is what $A3 means in the Output To text box). When you go into your reports, you can now see data broken down by this. That isn’t quite what we want though - we want to see referring keywords that come from specific pages of search results. To do this, we need the new feature in GA called ’segments’:

Click on the drop-down and add a new segment:

Set it up as shown above (user-defined value is under the ’Visitors’ dimension). If you want 2nd page referrals from Google, you want matches exactly = 10 (I find it useful to have a segment for that and another for pages 3-5). If you are setting up a segment for Yahoo! or Live, and set the filter up appropriately for them above, then you will need 11 / 21 / 31 etc.

Once you have this segment, you can apply it to any report you like:

Apply it to your organic keywords report, and you’re good to go!

## On another subject entirely...

For those of you not just interested in learning about Google Analytics, I published a post earlier today called SEO agency for sale? (just before disappearing off for 3 weeks’ holiday). If that headline isn’t enticing....

##Late update

Joast’s site has just published this post which gives a nice addition to the method that includes the referring page in the keyword data.

About the author
Will Critchlow

Will Critchlow

Will founded Distilled with Duncan in 2005. Since then, he has consulted with some of the world’s largest organisations and most famous websites, spoken at most major industry events and regularly appeared in local and national press. For the...   read more