Tracking SEO Traffic Results with Omniture Site Catalyst

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Previously we covered how to manage basic landing page opimisation with Omniture Site Catalyst, but one of the most common question I come across from businesses using Omniture SiteCatalyst is: How my SEO activities perform against my key metrics and against other online marketing channels such as banner, SEM (Pay Per Click) or email ?.

While such question is easily answered with Google Analytics (or other tools) because the organic search traffic is already classified under "organic" in the Traffic Sources report, it is actually harder to provide a straight answer to someone who has a basic Omniture SiteCatalyst package.
Omniture SiteCatalyst is great for many things, but for some reason they made it difficult (and more expensive) to access some of the most basic performance data of your website.

If you do not have fancy settings or access to Discover or Data Warehouse, it is actually very hard to compare the effectiveness of SEO against any other marketing channel. The main reason being that SEO traffic is recorded as a traffic variable (s.Prop) whereas any other marketing campaign is recorded as a conversion variable (eVar).

After reviewing many alternatives I came up with two different ways of obtaining the data depending on your budget, time and Omniture package:

Use a VISTA Rule to Populate a Conversion Variable with SEO traffic data

A VISTA rule is a powerful server-side feature provided by Omniture, which basically populates data into a pre-defined variable without the need to alter the SiteCatalyst implementation.
Using a VISTA rule to segment your SEO traffic is the easiest solution but as many Omniture products it comes with an extra cost.

One of the most common version of the VISTA Rule for this purpose is called Unified Sources.
The biggest advantage of Unified Sources is that it will classify any source of traffic under pre-defined categories such as organic search, banners, paid search (same as the Traffic Sources report in Google Analytics).
If you are already using tracking codes for your online marketing campaigns, you are almost done because all your online marketing activities will already be classified. The VISTA rule will only need to populate the corresponding eVar with the organic search engine data so that you can compare each traffic source in a easy to use report.

Once implemented, you will have a clean report, which will let you compare you SEO traffic against any other campaigns and metrics.

Use an ASI, Discover or DataWarehouse to segment SEO Traffic

Discover, Data Warehouse and ASI segments are really similar. An ASI Segment is basically a segementation tool provided by Omniture (Discover and DataWarehouse actually use segments). What it does, is isolate specific traffic segment based on a set filter. If you are familiar with Google Analytics, an ASI is what you can get with the Advanced Segementation Feature.

By creating an ASI segment, you will create a specific Report Suite, which will solely focus on SEO traffic, you will be able to measure your organic search traffic against key metrics of your site. If you want to compare your SEO traffic against other sources, you will need to run different reports and then do a bit of manipulation to reconcile them.

Data Warehouse, and Discover will provide a similar solution, but you won't be able to access your data instantly and will need to run a report (which take time) everytime you need it.

If you have access to your Omniture SiteCatalyst admin console or Discover you can set up your ASI segment yourself using the Advanced Segment Builder, otherwise contact your Omniture representative and he/she will be able to do it for you. If you have Data Warehouse, the process is similar, you will need to create a segment ,but you will then need to run a report to access the data.

Basically, the segment should be configured to include all data from search engines. In Omniture is it defined by choosing a container and including Search Engine as greater than or equal to [exclamation point].
Then you will also need to make sure that the segment does not include paid campaigns. In Omniture SiteCatalyst paid campaigns are recorded using a specific eVar (Conversion Variable - most common example is Tracking Code). The segment should therefore be set to exclude all data where your paid campaign is less than [exclamation point]. You then just need to click apply and you are all set.

Once done the data in the segment will be only organic search traffic. You can then compare it to your other campaigns and measure your SEO results against other metrics and traffic sources.

Measuring the results of your SEO efforts can be done with Omniture SiteCatalyst, but in a more painful way that you would expect from an analytics package of this cost.
It is however very hard if you do not have the budget to pay for a VISTA rule or no access to Data Warehouse. Such situations contribute to make Omniture SiteCatalyst quite a frustrating product to use when you consider you can get this data with Google Analytics for free.

This is such a shame as SiteCatalyst is a great product. Most frustrations could be reduced if Omniture considered to offer Unified Sources as a out-of-the-box feature.