Cardinal Path’s response to COVID-19 Cardinal Path is sharing all we know to help marketers during COVID-19.  Learn more.

Knowing how Google Analytics retrieves data from the web is one piece of the puzzle of understanding how well your site is performing. Often we forget all the things that go on behind the scenes and only look at the data as is.

It is important for SEOs to understand that there may be instances where “strange” keywords will appear in your reports. These keywords are classified under source=”google” and medium=”organic”.

So what am I talking about here!?

Those Strange Keywords in our Google Analytics report

Those keywords that we began seeing in our reports were ones like: “view:popular” and “section:”sci/tech”.

I then turned to my colleague Eduardo Cereto and asked if he’s seen anything like this before (if you know Eduardo, then you know that there’s a good chance that he’d seen something like this before). So why is this? Well… Google Analytics identifies a Google organic source every time the referred for the first pageview contains “google” on the domain and a query parameter “q” (the “q” is later used as a keyword).

The Problem

The problem is that Google News seems to send a “q” parameter sometimes and that is not a typed keyword, but instead a result of the user refining news using the left navigation on Google News. We start seeing things like this:

This is what I see on the destination site (mediapost.com in this case). Looking at the cookies and referrer on the console.

> document.referrer
"http://news.google.com/news/section?pz=1&amp;jfkl=true&amp;cf=all&amp;ned=us&amp;hl=en&amp;<strong>q=topic:mobile_industry</strong>&amp;topicsid=en_us:tc&amp;topicnv=__AB21PFx-pvsKyE5VRxBqmfNtRayRrrR_gtVsJVtJmrxLLuIIESymaq2rfAmDJpGfGyXBwwpHskUnpEJNCiSrgAE8lK-fGRxd9bqL6GpqKQX4YyvuOc3jr1g6_Tl7AMtb-4KUsY_xedMOeRfd8G5i-XCnIfGWVsIDADDgY11NdwZkl0Ze1YoOf2XK8R7g-Sk7p4YYUobNMDSAwuXTw-aFFQokPJeWMxhlkolSjtDNwL6BPVKKg0TXnuN_uNmCfw2j63yUXX78Pcue16NStLPgBR_5wh6lL2QqZ5FxKzWrtAn4b0p9MNexuVUq7vH6gNj0yrSA-PBlH27uInox_x9bl8LSnkTHV4WDnVoSCdgJnA8d3x27uyKYyNnxtC_JYyseW-entIRz1J5qyn2EXA4182pwi4juyoNyUVb3h096_4nz9RjLSffb3LQxBNsoCnyYd5W2jz54ASFa1HBf9B3Y2_2YUqzNA7-jG8y81zVoA-IPLnJmxLd6y4ERlYY3uFcfqaKR99Bn80P20RSgMt5D-Wu-ikMOaYLqjcRnvZ82AYjESZKTq2CNe5uJBsdQtDr-KPf6tm4YMIH4Qna0IRxRx7sO6w5_27W1P5SIfqT_TwPDCNjdjE52fME_1LnRZO1ogxVrwwhaqqwQgQSYNgrjw6PwHwD7aOAGo6i32wJtO7orR8DLULWH9Ah6MOgSppXWWHfYtIwDY18OfCP2S62vRcA_p1sZvKK9hVzZyvYDYiMZ6HeGzhUq691-Yxnfn13mOu08JtgMS9kwchQl0iSXHlwkodqbCsqNhnQSyszs-J0u-V5AnX7RHG7TocOm4_FDEMoBq4Hg6y_RoYgPaYc0Tdu9eYxO05RZVMPue6T3xu4twlLYrK2xZnjn4JaOvEuhHZDuucpYoWf2-r8EzgtKy5mbSm3FMV2YLA%3D%3D&amp;ict=tnv0"
&gt; document.cookie.split(';')

["SESSIONSCOPETESTED=1", " HASSESSIONSCOPE=1", " CFID=35991131", " CFTOKEN=83575362", " LASTVISIT=%7Bts%20%272011%2D08%2D24%2015%3A56%3A01%27%7D", " __utma=217479050.1101957297.1314215765.1314215765.1314215765.1", " __utmb=217479050.1.10.1314215765", " __utmc=217479050", " __utmz=217479050.1314215765.1.1.utmcsr=google|utmccn=(organic)|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=topic:mobile_industry"]

Because Google News is using the “q” parameter, this referrers is not a referral visit anymore but an organic visit and the keyword is set to the value of the “q” parameter.  It doesn’t happen every time since sometimes Google News doesn’t use the “q” parameter but we’ve seen a few instances on the U.S. edition that has it. Otherwise, the absence of the q parameter it’s treated as a referral of news.google.com.

‘Temporary’ Workaround

There is a ‘temporary’ workaround for this until Google fixes the bug on their end. I say temporary because once implemented, careful monitoring is required to ensure that this piece of code is removed once the fix comes up on Google’s side.

function fixGoogleNews(){
    if(document.referrer &amp;&amp; document.referrer.indexOf('//news.google.com')){
        _gaq.push(['_setReferrerOverride', 'http://news.google.com']);
    }
}

var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXXXX-1']);
_gaq.push(fixGoogleNews);
_gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);

(function() {
var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true;
ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js';
var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
})();

This is not pretty, but it does fix the problem. Have you come across a similar problem? Please share any thoughts you might have below!

Sharing is caring!

Popular

COVID-19 Crisis Navigator​

In partnership with Dentsu, Cardinal Path helps you distill the overwhelming news and information into a bi-weekly report highlighting emerging trends and insights during the pandemic.

EXPLORE THE REPORT

Thank you for your submission.

Message Sent

Thank you.

Click here to download access the tool.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you.

Message Sent

Thank you.

Message Sent

Thank you

Message Sent

Thank you

Message Sent

Thank you.

Message Sent

Thank you

Message Sent

Thank you.

Message Sent

Success!
Your message was received.

Thank you.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Thank you for submitting the form.

Thank you for your submission.

Thank you for your submission.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Thank you for your submission.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Thank you for registering.​

Paid media spend by Government websites increased a whopping 139% YoY in 2020.

2020 Online Behavior Live Dashboard

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

2020 Online Behavior Live Dashboard

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Thank you for submitting the form.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for your submission.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Message Sent

Thank you for registering.

Thank you for registering.

Cardinal Path is continuing with its series of free training. Next we are conducting training on Google Data Studio. Check it out here.
Cardinal Path hosted a live session to connect with you and answer all your questions on Google Analytics.
Get all the expertise and none of the consultancy fees in this not-to-be-missed, rapid-fire virtual event.

Message Sent

Success! Thank you
for reaching out.