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Correctly Track Your Mobile SEO Traffic

In October of 2012 many sites including Search Engine Land uncovered that not only was Google hiding keyword data within the dreaded “(not provided)” keyword set, but Google was totally missing the boat on recording organic traffic from Safari iOS users as well.

The reason behind this shift was the fact that the default browser for the iPhone is Safari. Google searches being done on the mobile Safari browser started generating secure search result. Not only were these searches secure, but they weren’t passing any referrer data at all.

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One of our clients, the Cleveland Clinic, noticed an interesting trend starting ever since the mobile version of iOS 6 was introduced. Here you can see the chart they referred to.

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Have you been underestimating your organic traffic? As mobile continues to grow chances are the answer is “yes”. So how are online marketers supposed to show the true numbers for organic traffic? I’ll tell you how in this step-by-step process. (Google Analytics is required for this estimation, and having MS Excel is also very useful)

  1. Access Google Analytics and select Traffic Source > Sources > Search > Organic
  2. For the Primary Dimension select “Source”
  3. For your Secondary Dimension select “Operating System”.
  4. Add up all of the iOS referral visits to get your iOS Organic Traffic
  5. Next you’ll need your direct iOS traffic. To get that go to Traffic Source > Source > Direct.
  6. For your Secondary Dimension select “Operating System”.
  7. Perform an advanced filter Operating System matches “iOS” and add up all of the iOS visits to arrive at your iOS Direct Traffic

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Now that you have your total iOS Organic Traffic and iOS Direct Traffic just a few formulas and you’ll have your Adjusted Organic Traffic Total.

Next you’ll need the Percent of Direct Traffic Over Total iOS Traffic. To accomplish this you do the following:

= iOS Direct Traffic / (iOS Organic Traffic + iOS Direct Traffic)

The next step will help you arrive at Recovered Organic Search Visits. To accomplish this you use the following formula:

= (iOS Direct Traffic – (iOS Direct Traffic + iOS Organic Traffic) * X)

In order to calculate X you need to take the average Percent of Direct Traffic Over Total iOS Traffic from January 2012 to September 2012. That number is then applied as “X” to the Recovered Organic Search Visits equation above.

Almost there! The final step is to arrive at the Adjusted Total Organic Search Traffic. To arrive at your final calculation you do the following:

= (Overall Search Traffic Including All Operating Systems + Recovered Organic Search Visits)

This is an awful lot of calculation to do even on a monthly basis, so be sure to use Google Analytics Advanced Segments, dashboards or shorcuts to set up this type of calculation to be easily accessible.

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Thank you for reading. Please comment below to let me know if you have any feedback or corrections with the process laid out here.

Kyle Misencik

Kyle Misencik

Senior Campaign Director, Organic Search at Intrapromote
Kyle is one of our amazing SEO Campaign Directors. He’ll woo you with all his geeky analytics speak and then, as a special treat, he’ll teach you a thing or two about Local Search. Kyle joined Intrapromote in 2011 and has been knocking our socks off ever since. Kyle is a huge music fan and his interests cross a variety of genres. When he isn't working to improve a client's SEO, he's off snowboarding, playing drums or jumping on the nearest motorcycle he can find.
Kyle Misencik
Kyle Misencik
Kyle Misencik

2 Comments

  1. Graham.R Jun 7, 2013 Reply

    Thanks, really useful and I never thought of doing this. It’s just a bit annoying that we’re forced to use workarounds like this rather than the root issue being addressed by Google.
    One thing to note is that prior to June 2012, the operating system for all iOS traffic was tracked as “iPad” or “iPhone” on GA, so when working out the value for X (as per your post), either just do it based on Jun-Sep 2012 or to get a more accurate figure create an advanced segment for operating systems containing: iPad OR iPhone OR iOS.

  2. Jeff Schroeffel Jul 3, 2013 Reply

    Great article. Question for you:

    You say this in your piece:
    “In order to calculate X you need to take the average Percent of Direct Traffic Over Total iOS Traffic from January 2012 to September 2012. That number is then applied as “X” to the Recovered Organic Search Visits equation above.”

    Would that be the best way to calculate X? For example if you took on a client after this, it would assume you didnt gain any organic market share. Wouldnt it be better to calculate X based on your ratio of direct/organic with IOS filtered out?

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