SiteCatalyst – Is Your Organic Data Being Polluted by Paid?

Reading time: 2 minutes
6th August 2013

The age old question of SiteCatalyst – is paid search data being counted as natural? The first step in the right direction is to understand that search traffic has two components: paid and natural. To get natural search you will need to separate search traffic by parsing out paid through a campaign tracking code, or tagging both natural and paid with their own unique campaign tracking code.  If everything is done properly on the paid side this should not be an issue. Unfortunately, sometimes this isn’t the case. In my experience, there are three factors that contribute to this.

  1. Paid campaigns going out without tracking codes
  2. Paid detection not setup correctly
  3. Tracking codes not firing

These three factors usually go unnoticed because paid metrics are not being reported through SiteCatalyst, but instead on another platform like DoubleClick. This allows for a small leak to turn into a lake overtime. PPC employees, don’t burn me at the stake, I’m not saying you should check your data every week, but give it a look every quarter.


Another worrying thing about these factors is that they are out of one teams control in most cases, but you can assure tagging accuracy by doing periodical audits. I personally have my clients’ paid campaigns exported monthly, to check them against SiteCatalyst. If this isn’t your cup of tea you can always do a spot audit of the most used.

I feel compelled to do this, because accurate data is essential and as soon as people doubt it, it is lost. Reference the vast amount of people that have access to SiteCatalyst and choose to use other platforms. A great way to gain peoples trust in an analytics platform is proving to them their systems data is accurate. This is where doing spot audits of your campaign tracking codes turns employees into SiteCatalyst users.

Accurate reporting is especially crucial for SEO since without it all metrics will be off, making SiteCatalyst counterintuitive. For example, if paid data for product X is bleeding through and not for product Y, conversion numbers could lead you to believe that product X might deserve its own section of the site. When in reality, it could be under-performing product Y. I know this doesn’t sound as horrifying as it is, but when you’re tasked with allocating budget to development teams to produce pages for a site and find out three months later that the data that went into this $500,000 investment was wrong, you will kick yourself that you didn’t run a simple spot audit.

Paid Tracking Code Spot Audit (15 minutes)

1. Figure out what your SiteCatalyst tracking code is for paid campaigns (cmp=KNC-18889888222).

2. Get a list of top 10 paid campaigns tracking URL’s SiteCatalyst for any given month.


3. Go to the tracking codes report in SiteCatalyst. The easiest way to do this is type in “tracking codes” in the internal search reports bar.

  • sitecatalyst-reports-search-bar

4. Select the month you have chosen for your test.


5. One-by-one put the tracking code into the search bar. If nothing comes back for some of the codes, it’s probably time to do a full audit.


Putting a bow on it all, inaccurate data in SiteCatalyst can cost you serious cash, hair loss and possibly relationship stability. SiteCatalyst is a great platform. Don’t allow a few possible leaks to create a lake of mistrust. You spend good money on this platform, people should be using it to its potential. If nothing comes from the audit, great! Now you can assure yourself and your colleagues our data is ACCURATE!

Written By Ayima
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