September 29, 2021
How to Improve Measurement with Cross-Domain Tracking
Two weeks ago, Google announced a major shift with the Google Shopping experience, allowing online retailers to list products and receive placements without having to pay for sponsored listings. These placements occur specifically within the Google Shopping search tab and the shopping.google.com portal. In making this change, Google opened up an additional stream of organic traffic and revenue for retailers.
While this change was an exciting one, Google hasn’t made tracking organic traffic very easy for retailers. Traffic from organic Shopping placements is currently attributed to “Organic Search” in Google Analytics, so there’s no real way to tell the difference between organic Shopping and regular Google Search traffic. The only insight offered for reporting is in Google Merchant Center, where you’re able to see a line graph with daily clicks like the one below.
Tracking click volume is obviously not enough data to take action on, and having this data solely in Google Merchant Center rather than seeing it as a segment in Google Analytics makes it even less useful. However, there is a way to track this traffic separately in Google Analytics with some simple feed modifications! Follow the steps below to begin understanding the impact of this change to your business as it continues to develop.
To track paid and organic Shopping traffic separately, you’ll need to make a modification to the product feed you’re uploading to Merchant Center.
The two attributes we are going to use in GMC feed are:
Note: This example will go over the scenario where ads_redirect is not being used for any other tracking. If you’re currently using this attribute to track Shopping campaigns via a third-party platform, you’ll have to work with your platform to make a similar change.
If you’re tracking Google Shopping campaigns only in Google Ads with standard gclid tracking or a tracking template/url suffix at the account or campaign level in Google Ads, the ads_redirect value should be blank.
By default, Google uses the link attribute to pull the product page URL for both paid and unpaid clicks. But if we add a product page URL to the ads_redirect attribute, paid Shopping clicks will default to this attribute instead. This creates an opportunity to add source/medium parameters to the URL in our link attribute, which now only organic clicks will use.
Here is an example to help you visualize it:
Of course, you can set utm_source and utm_medium to be whatever values you choose, but leaving utm_medium set to “organic” should include that traffic in the “Organic Search” Default Channel Grouping in Google Analytics. All organic product listing clicks will go through the URL in the link attribute, while paid Shopping traffic will go through the ads_redirect URL. The gclid or any parameters established in your tracking template will still be appended, so the traffic will continue to be categorized in the same way your paid Shopping ads campaigns were previously.
For SEO purposes, you should still add the clean product page URL to the canonical_link attribute to tell Google to crawl that page for web search indexing, rather than using the tracking URL in link.
After these feed changes are submitted in Google Merchant Center, you can easily test them by clicking one of your organic listings and checking the URL. The URL should contain the utm_source and utm_medium parameters you appended to the link attribute. After the click, your Google Analytics reports will start showing organic Shopping traffic under the source and medium dimensions.
We hope that Google will release new reporting features for organic traffic coming from “surfaces across Google,” but until then, this workaround will help you gather insight on the amount and quality of this free traffic.
Metric Theory has already set this up for all feed management clients, and it’s allowed us to report on the incremental business impact of these new unpaid listings. We plan to report back with what we’re seeing over time. If you’re looking for this level of insight for your ecommerce business, why not reach out to our team?