How to Get Detailed PPC Keyword Data from Google Analytics

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At GA-Experts, we also provide PPC Management services through our parent company Omega Digital Media, so we are continually looking at ways to improve the data that Google Analytics provides about a PPC campaign. With this in mind we have developed a new filter that shows exactly the Search Term (i.e. keywords that are searched on) rather than just the Bid Term (i.e. the keywords that triggered a PPC advert).

For example, if a visitor searches for “sony digital camera” and you have an ad configured for the keywords “digital camera” as a Broad Match in Google AdWords, then this search will show your ad. But in your GA reports, the keywords for this search will be reported as “digital camera“. Whilst this gives you good data on your Bid Term, it doesn’t help you refine your keyword triggers because the reports don’t show the actual Search Term.

If you use this Override Bid Term filter then the same search will show “digital camera, (sony+digital+camera)” in any Google Analytics report that shows keywords (e.g. Marketing Optimisation -> Search Engine Marketing -> Overall Keyword Conversion) or any time you cross-segment against keywords.

This data now allows you to fine-tune your PPC campaigns by getting greater detail from your GA reports. In the example above, if the ‘sony+digital+camera‘ search is a frequent one, you might consider creating an Exact Match advert that took visitors to a dedicated Sony landing page. Or replacing the Broad Match ‘digital camera‘ term with a more precise ‘sony digital camera‘ Exact Match to increase your clickthrough rate.

There’s lots that can be done to optimise a campaign using this filter, so please see below for configuration instructions:

1) Create two filters as per the images here:

The Field A regular expression is: (\?|&)(q|p)=([^&]*)

In English, this means:

Look for character immediately following a ? or & (i.e. a URL variable), that is named q or p, and extract the value of this variable.

 

2) Create a new profile for your existing site. This keeps the detailed keyword data in a separate profile. You can apply this filter to your main profile(s) if you prefer, but a separate profile allows for continuity and top level reporting in your main profile with keyword detail available as required.

3) Apply the two filters to the new profile, in the order Override Bid Term 1 *then* Override Bid Term 2

You can now view detailed Search Term data from any GA report that shows keyword information. Please let us know any feedback via the blog comments.

For further examples of using filters, get a copy of the book Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics published by Wiley & Sons, March 2008 (ISBN: 978-0-470-25312-0).

 

80 Responses to “How to Get Detailed PPC Keyword Data from Google Analytics”

  1. Timothy Seward Says:

    Jim,

    This is *brilliant*. Bravo!

    Timothy

  2. LunaMetrics Blog Says:

    This is so lovely. I read this a week or more ago and finally had time to implement for a customer. Thank you for the screen shots, they make it trivial.

    Robbin Steif
    LunaMetrics

  3. Joe Says:

    This is great stuff guys. I really like the referrals post too. I have been looking for these stats for a while. Previously I had to take the strain of outputting it through burny raw log files.

    This really takes GA up to another level. The extra keywords keywords are great for refining adwords campaigns and I am about to setup an affiliate campaign for a client, so looking at the referrals from the Google content network is a great way for targeting websites who are commercial aware and could potentially be great affiliates.

    Keep up the good work…

    If only I knew how to create a filter so I could see stats for Robots/Spiders …hmmm… :)

  4. GA Experts Says:

    Thanks Joe. Just a quick point – you won’t see search engines or spiders in GA reports as in order to be logged by GA as a site visitor you need to process the JavaScript page tags. At the moment, despite rumours to the contrary, we don’t believe there are any SE spiders that can process JavaScript (processing power, security issues, etc.) – but in the future who knows…

  5. Anonymous Says:

    hello there. thanks so much for the helpful tips on this. Is it possible to ask one question?

    in the ‘override bid term 1′ filter the output to constructor is a custom field 1 with a varible called $A3.

    in the override bid term 2 filter the output to constructor is a campaign term with the regex of: $B1,($A1). Is this a typo or should the regex be: $B1,($A3) to match the variable in filter 1 above?

    sorry for the question. i am new to this.

    appreciate it very much!

    jay wilner – out of bounds

  6. Anonymous Says:

    thanks for the help on this. one question. in the override bid term 1 filter, you have the output to-> going to $A3. Is this supposed to be $A1 to match that term in Override Bid term 2 constructor? just checking, i dont know this stuff too well. or do we just follow exactly like you have it? thanks again!! jay wilner – out of bounds

  7. PPC Keyword Tool Says:

    Great writeup guys! So many analytics available to us now, and its good when we’re able to combine processes to drill down into the real value of stats.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Sorry this doesnt work for me, Ive put the code of every page of my site (for the new profile) – analytivs is showing as receiving data – but theres nothing in my reports not even a single visitor for the last 4 days which is totally wrong.

    can anyone help me?

    thanks in advance

  9. GA Expert Says:

    The filter is correct – and working for this site.

    $A3 relates to the matching in the regular expression. It is not stored in the filter.

    HTH

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  11. Jonah Cosley Says:

    This is really great. Thank you for taking the time to share it!

  12. Adam Oakley Says:

    I’ve been looking for this kind of solution for a long time. It only took a couple minutes to set-up and the detailed keyword tracking is perfect. The data on broad matches are already showing areas that need to be adjusted. By the way, the link from ROI Revolution is linking to a 404ed page.

    Thanks for the filter.

    Adam

  13. Omar Peppy Says:

    I installed the filters and they work great! Only problem is that they don’t appear to be able to track conversions. Anyone have any luck figuring that out?

    Great hack none the less.

  14. Bas Says:

    Hi,

    Great tip, but I can’t get it to work! I installed and applied the filters, but can’t see the ‘raw’ search terms … (Eg. in ‘Traffice Sources -> Keywords’) Do i just have to be patience or am I doing something wrong?

    Thanks, Bas.

  15. Bas Says:

    Never mind, patience is not my thing I suppose .. ;-)

    It works great, just what I wanted to see! Thanks!

  16. Paul Says:

    I tried the code above (double checked everything) but I am not getting the detail information. I suspect similar problem as to Ingo’s – we are also running on the new GA code… Anybody else having problems with this?

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  18. Jaimie Scott Says:

    Like Paul, I can’t seem to get this to work. Have you identified any account configuration issues that might explain the problems we are having? Thanks for publishing the technique! If I can get it working it will be very powerful. — Jaimie Scott

  19. Charles Meaden Says:

    We’re seeing exactly the same thing happening. We have this code running on 10 of our clients accounts and all the data has stopped being reported on all the accounts.

    We’re running the old .js code on these accounts.

  20. Tyson Says:

    Same thing here…had this filter working on several client accounts and then Jan. 8th hit and it no longer works. Something definitely happened that day…

  21. Tyson Says:

    I have heard that Custom Field 1, which is used in this filter, became read-only on January 8th. Looks like this filter may be out of commission.

  22. Birger Says:

    Hi Tyson,
    yes, the same here. The filter worked without any problems until Jan 8th. After that all data turned into “not set”.

    Do you have any statement from Google that there was a change on custom field?

  23. Tony Says:

    Anyone know if this can be fixed?

  24. Birger Says:

    This is the response I received from Google so far:

    “The filters are not officially supported by Google. That’s why we cannot offer any support here.
    Please check whether the auto tagging function in Google AdWords is enabled and that cost data is applied to the Google Analytics profile.”

    That hasn’t solved my problem since both check boxes are checked. It would be good to get in touch with somebody where the filters still work in order to compare settings. Any volunteers? :)

  25. Rod Says:

    Here’s the fix:

    http://www.roirevolution.com/blog/2007/04/exact_keyword_tracking_with_google_analytics_revis.html

  26. Google Analytics, the next level | SEO News Says:

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  27. Brian Clifton Says:

    Guys, I am not sure what the issue has been here (not working in Jan etc), but I have just implemented these filters for a client that uses ga.js and all is working nicely.

  28. Brian Clifton Says:

    ROI’s version is a slightly different take on the issue (see comment #25).

    Essentially they use JavaScript code to set a persistant cookie (utmv) on the visitor’s browser. That way the original search term stays with the visitor on subsequent visits.

    My hack is on a per session basis i.e. if the visitor comes back the new search term is captured and reported on next to the bid term.

    HTH, Brian

  29. Tim in Georgia Says:

    The filter works great! Is there any way to know whether the Bid Term that matched was the Exact, phrase or broad term?
    I have very different conversion rates between the Phrase and Exact, but both are shown in GA as ‘My Term’ on 2 rows with no indication of broad or phrase.
    A solution for this would also be useful.

  30. Andrew Says:

    I have followed the tutorial and double checked my settings but it still does not seem to work for me. I have tried with Custom Field 1, Custom Field 2, User Defined etc. Can someone tell me if this filter does still work? or should I look to use the ‘ga_keyword.js’ script instead of filters. Any help is much appreciated.

  31. admin Says:

    Andrew – all works well with the filter. See last two comments

  32. Tim Leighton-Boyce Says:

    I’ve just been setting up these filters on a new site for the first time in a while and have noticed a couple of things.

    1. Minor change to the terms used in the new version of GA. “Custom Field 1″ now seems to tbe “Customised Field 1″..

    but also

    2. Although the scripts certainly seem to still work, the effects seem slightly different to what I had expected or remembered from the past. For each key phrase I’m seeing two versions listed in the ‘paid’ keywords report

    word1 word2 (word1+word2)
    word1 word2

    The visits figure is split between the two rows. Comparing with an unfiltered profile the combined total is slightly out, but reasonably close.

    The e-commerce transactions are all associated with the word1 word2 row.

    I was not surprised to see that the ecommerce transactions were not associated with the manipulated version of the data. I think that was also the case when I had used these filters on other sites in the past, or had done similar things such as testing for the existence of some generic emailcode tag to manipulate the ‘medium’ of a visit.

    But I was surprised by the existence of the two rows. I would have expected the filter to repeat the actual phrase typed even if it was the same as the one which would have normally been displayed and for there to be no rows without the words in brackets. (I’ve not explained that very well…)

    Did these filters always produce results like this? I don’t have my old examples to go back to unfortunately, so cannot check if I am remembering it wrong.

    Also: what do the two rows represent, please? The ‘naked’ version is not simply recording the visits which have the transactions. Plenty of these visits do not convert. Are some of them cpc visits which only had partial referral information for some other reason (in my test I have drilled down and, conveniently, all came from Google) I wonder?

    I still think these are extremely useful filters and would just like a bit more insight into what may be going on here.

    Tim

  33. Update to an Old Favorite - Detailed PPC Keyword Data in Google Analytics » Ambient and Transparent Says:

    [...] in November of 2006, our friends at GA Experts posted a method to get detailed PPC keyword data from Google Analytics. This method involved creating a seperate profile and using some intimidating [...]

  34. Sahaj Says:

    Knowing the exact keywords people typed and then clicked on your ads is extremelly useful. I don’t know why Google Analytics doesn’t show those keywords instead of the broad match ones. I wrote about this not long time back, Best PPC Practice – Exact Keywords.

  35. Nikki Rae Says:

    Tim,

    I have the exact same issue in all respects and it would be helpful to know the answers…

  36. Nikos Kapsomenakis Says:

    I have spotted the same issues with Tim. And there is also something else.

    All my keywords with (word1+word2 +/or something else) variations reported by the filter have dramatic differences in pages/visit compared to every other keywords without variations (reported by the filter).

    E.x. 1-2 pages/visit for all keywords with variations against 16+ pages/visit for keywords without variations

    I believe that this is not justified because the avg time on site remains about the same for both occasions

  37. Dale Says:

    Is there any way to show the conversions for the actual “searched” keywords in Analytics. It looks as if Analytics only shows conversions for the keyword triggered not the actual words used for the search.

  38. Joe Says:

    Great article, very useful!

    I have also noticed the same issues as Tim which are..

    1. There are duplicate entries for keywords in:
    Traffic Sources -> Keywords -> Show: Paid -> Ecommerce

    For example:
    -My Keyword
    -My Keyword, (My+Keyword)

    The data for each is different. I understand that the second one is created by the filter, but shouldn’t the visits be the same? Can anyone explain the difference between these rows?

    2. In the same Ecommerce section, keywords with (My+Keyword) values do not show any Transaction data. Is there a way to get (My+Keyword) rows to display the correct transaction data?

    Note: I noticed that if you filter by “Dimension: User Defined Value”, the keywords appear to display the correct data but I’m not 100% sure. Perhaps there is a way to copy this data to its (My+Keyword) equal? Just a thought :)

    Thanks for any help!

    -Joe

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  40. admin Says:

    Tim, Nickki, Nikos, Joe

    I think I now understand what you are describing so here is my attempt to answer your questions…

    The filters work on all paid search campaigns labelled as cpc or ppc (i.e. all Adwords and others if you are using campaign tracking in your landing page URLs).

    If we just consider visitors that click on your paid search ads, then ALL these visits will have the double label in the keywords report. For example:

    bid_term1 bid_term2 (search_term1+search_term2)

    This is the same whether the search_term matches the bid_term or not. That is how these filters work – the modification is made for ALL paid keywords.

    So why are some keywords missing the brackets?

    Consider the scenario where a visitor first clicks your ad, likes your site, bookmarks a page then leaves. The next day they return by clicking on their bookmark. The second visit will contain all the campaign parameters as the first – GA gets this information from the referrer cookie (called utmz in Google Analytics), which lasts 6 months unless the visitor deletes it. However there is no referrer for this visit – they came direct.

    The result is that the first filter will not match. Hence the keyword information retrieved from the utmz cookie is not modified. This is what I believe is happening. As conversions rarely happen on a first visit, it appears to make sense to me that you are seeing transactions associated with the non-modified keywords, though I am surprised that this is ALL transactions. Is that still the case now?

    The same situation occurs if the visitor simply remembers your URL and types it in directly on their second visit. The original referrer cookie is retained and therefore applied to the second visit. More info on how GA cookies work and how how GA gives credit to referrers is in the book Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics – related site/blog: http://www.advanced-web-metrics.com

    HTH, Brian

  41. Shamil Says:

    Hello,
    This is great hack, thank you.
    But I have small troubles.

    My visitors are russian speaking, and there are non-latin letters in searches key words.
    So in GA I see anything like this:
    Google (cpc/latin+words+%E3%F3%E3%EB+%E0%ED%E0%EB%E8)

    Is anybody know how to fix it?

  42. tony Says:

    i installed the script, now what? Where do I go to see the data? Can someone help? email me please. tony@directoryone.com

  43. Bill Parker Says:

    Fan-Freaking-Tastic! This is unbelievably useful for long tail campaign development!

  44. Bj Says:

    Thanks for the details on how to filter ppc traffic, it has been a great help.

    I have another question regarding filters, is it possible to filter traffic that comes to our site from the local search map that is displayed in search results?

    If it is possible would you mind sharing how this can be done?

    Thanks for you help

  45. Atiq Says:

    Thanks for such a nice article. In fact I implemented these advanced filters on about 5 or 6 different Analytics Accounts (of off course different websites) and found great results.

    All of these Analytics accounts were integrated with their respective AdWords Accounts and were show PPC queries in detail.

    However, from 23rd March 2009, these filters (I created new profile in each account to use these filters) suddenly stopped working. Now there is no PPC visits data all.

    AdWords campaigns for these accounts are still running. I can see AdWords data inside Analytics accounts in normal profiles.

    The new advanced profiles with advanced query filters still showing other (organic, referral) visits but no PPC data, not even simple PPC visits.

    It is strange as every thing was normal a week ago.

    Any reasons, has Google stopped supporting some of variables or ……………?

  46. Ingo Says:

    I have the same issue as Atiq. The filter stopped working on March 23, 2009. Does anyone know what happened and how to fix it? I have been using this filter for quite some time now with great results and never had any problems with it.

  47. Charles Meaden Says:

    Same here – over 2/3 of the PPC accounts that we are running for clients are seeing the same issues. At first glance it looks like those who are on urchin.js are Ok, but those on ga.gs are not

  48. Charles Meaden Says:

    We have found an alternative that appears to work at http://www.semvironment.com/ppc-management-adwords-keyword-data-exposed-with-google-analytics/

    Good lucj

  49. admin Says:

    Charles: the filter you reference is the same as the one described here – though it will potentially catch other ppc networks (beyond Adwords and YSM), the method is identical.

    Bill: Really happy you like this hack and its providing useful info for you

    BJ: For Google local search (essentially Google Maps), take a look at the post Customising the List of recognised Search Engines hack at: http://www.advanced-web-metrics.com/blog/ga-scripts/

    Atiq/Ingo: This filter is still working fine for me (all this week). Has anything changed for you in terms of implementation?

  50. Robert Says:

    We too have been using this fantastic filter to target our customers better. Unfortunately, as with Atiq and Ingo, our CPC data stopped showing for this custom report. The natural traffic still shows, but now we have a whole bunch of “(direct) ((none))” instead of “google (cpc)”. It looks like the filter is somehow causing the PPC Adwords tracking to fail.

    We are using ga.js. GA-Expert, you say you are still seeing data coming through. Are you using ga.js or urchin.js? If you are on ga.js, have you changed anything about your filter?

    I have inspected my raw webserver log data and can see no difference in log entries that succesfully triggered the filter and entries that did not. I can only conclude that ga.js or one of its friends was updated on the 23rd of March causing this filter to break.

    I know you’re a busy guy! But I and the rest of the Adwords community could sure use your help with this. Please take a look for us, you are the expert :)

  51. Ed Says:

    I’m on the exact same boat as Robert. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

  52. James Says:

    I have the filters working well on 20 – 30 accounts. To avoid any problems i have created new profiles to each account to run this filter on.

    One thing i am finding is that going through traffic sources >> AdWords >> AdWords Campaigns and drilling down into campaigns/adgroups which have had goal conversions – the keywords within that all have the appended (search+query) but no goal conversions are allocated to any of the search queries.

    So to conclude, goal conversions are not being allocated to keywords with extracted search queries. Has anyone had this problem and have any solutions been found?

    Thanks for this article, great work.

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  54. Atiq Says:

    @admin

    No, I have not changed any thing. This is what it is now. I believe I and Ingo, Robert & Ed are facing same problem.

    GA EXPERT. PLease please find out what happened on 23rd March 2009.

    I am also using ga.js for all my accounts.

  55. Atiq Says:

    @ admin, Ingo, Robert & Ed:

    Problem solved. Now I can see data in all account profile.

    Do me a favour and log into Adwords, click on the Analytics tab, and make sure each profile (especially the PPC keywords one) has the Apply Cost Data checkbox as checked.

    Problem solved.
    One more issues, this time it is with ecommerce data matching with referal, when transaction is carried out on third party site (WorldPay) that does not allow passing cookies or redirect users after sale completeion.

    Complete details are posted on Google Analytics Help Group. No final answer yet. http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Google+Analytics/thread?tid=2c821eba10078545&fid=2c821eba1007854500046053c9252fff&hl=en

    Please help.

    Atiq

  56. Dean Says:

    Have this filter on many accounts. Stopped working around March 23rd for most. Noticed that the non working profiles did not have “Apply Cost Data: Yes”. in the profile. Thanks for the hint. Will let you know if there are problems.

  57. admin Says:

    I am assuming this filter is working again for you guys now?

    FWIW it has continued to work perfectly for me on this site, but that is still using the legacy urchin.js code. I will be testing with the ga.js code in the near future to verify, but it sounds like your problem was with account linking to Adwords…

  58. Ingo Says:

    I followed Atiq’s advice and checked “Apply Cost Data” for all my profiles. I just checked and now the filter works again and I can see all the PPC data!

    @Atiq Thanks so much for solving this issue!

  59. Neal Says:

    Not sure if there’s one out there but I created a tool to extract the keyword queries. Just export your keywords from Google Analytics and copy and paste into the tool. It will strip out keywords within () and convert all the weird symbols e.g. %26 %20, etc. You can then paste the converted keywords into your Adwords campaigns.

    http://www.akamaiseo.com/google-analytics-keyword-filter-parsing-tool/

  60. John Rodriguez Says:

    James (Comment #52), I’m having the same issue, and have been looking for a fix or explanation for the last bit.

    It doesn’t look like this filter will add cost or conversion data for the individual keywords. Analytics tracks that data using the utm_term auto tagging, while the filter pulls the keyword out of the query parameter.

    I’ll probably switch over to the Javascript / User Defined Variable method instead. It’s not ideal (no cost tracking), but at least you can view conversion data…
    http://www.roirevolution.com/blog/2008/02/exact_keyword_tracking_with_gajs.html

  61. Irfy Says:

    What does (.*) represent in the second filter..plz let me know…

  62. Trond Says:

    Great filter! “Extending” Google Analytics by integrating a better overview of Google Adwords data in ONE report is extremely valuable. I’m a Google Advertising Professional and are currently doing all reporting through Adwords, but by replacing two reports with only one this makes me able to focus more on the SEO and valuable work instead of producing reports :-)

  63. beasiswa dalam negri Says:

    i just have wondering how i will use google analystics for research long tail keywords. I dont know but i thing your post would be useful for me… or are you have idea for make it done ?

    Regards

  64. bill Says:

    Same issue as #52 and #60. Has anyone come up with a fix? It seems like Analytics can’t keep the plus signs intact and loses the visitor trail.

    I have been using this filter for some time. The multiple term keywords extracted do come out with a plus sign between them, but the page views per visit and goal tracking is messed up. There are absolutely no goals tracked. If you filter your keywords by (type in) \+, you will find them. Select Paid traffic. The average pages per visit is very low, but the average time on site and bounce rate is normal. Our site high volume and I am sure after landing many people visit more than 1 page and end up completeing a goal. Has any seen this and knows how to fix?

  65. Theresa Says:

    Did this issue just die out? I just got my copy of the book and, reading through it, I saw an example of a reports page showing “Traffic Sources > AdWords > Keywords but it seems to be a different graphic than what I see on my screen.

    It shows the first metric as AdWords Keyword where my screen just has Keyword in the drop-down box. It also shows the second metric as Matched Search Query, but there’s no such option in the drop-down box. (There’s a user Defined Value option, but I can’t figure out how to create a value?)

    Hope I’m not beating a dead horse. :) I searched for “user defined value” and this is the only post your blog offered me!

    GREAT book, by the way. I’m learning a ton!

    Thanks,
    Theresa

    Thanks,
    Theresa

  66. Phillip Crum Says:

    Installed both filters but I do not get the anticipated results. All buttons are checked, etc.

    Is this an outdated hack or ??

  67. Saurabh Says:

    I tested this filter but it shows same data for keywords like below:

    beauty tips,(beauty+tips)
    beauty tips,(beauty%20tips)
    designerc wear shirt,(designerc+wear+shirt)
    fashin magazines,(fashin%20magazines)

    All the keywords are same as the filtered version of the exact, which os not realistic. I did for 3 sites same results. same keywords either with % of + signs.

  68. bill Says:

    I don’t know if this thing is relevant anymore. I quit using it, however, if I am not mistaken, you need to turn off the automatic tagging feature in Adwords in order for this to work, otherwise all the search terms in Analytics are the same as the sponsored terms you selected in Adwords. If you turn off automatic tagging, you need to add the old manual tags in order for Analytics to know which campaign they came from.

    Basically, since this procedure resulted in lost visitor paths, I switched to automatic tagging and now use Adword’s detailed search term feature (on the Keyword tab the option to “See search terms”). I used to do a lot of detailed search term analysis, but in the end you spend far too much time analyzing infrequently used search terms that don’t add up to much. Using Adword’s actual search term analysis tool and adding a few carefully selected negative keywords, you can let Adwords do the matching and spend your time on bigger issues.

  69. bill Says:

    Forgot to note that if you use the manual tags, you need to leave out the keyword tag.

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  78. Tips on Reading Google Analytics | | Digital Traffic SquadDigital Traffic Squad Says:

    [...] How to Get Detailed PPC Keyword Data from Google Analytics A new filter that shows exactly the Search Term (i.e. keywords that are searched on) rather than just the Bid Term (i.e. the keywords that triggered a PPC advert). [...]

  79. John Says:

    Hi,

    Great, article, it seems to be doing the trick overall.

    I do have one quick question, how exactly do you “Apply the two filters to the new profile, in the order Override Bid Term 1 *then* Override Bid Term 2″?

    I just want to check I’ve implemented the filters correctly.

    Secondly, I assumed the ‘campaign medium cpc|ppc’ setting would exclude all organic data. However organic visits and events are still being recorded. Any ideas on why this is?

    Cheers

    John

  80. How to Create Google Analytics Profiles that Lead to Profitable Actions | Certified Knowledge Says:

    [...] to input filters. Once you get to the filter input screen, you’ll want to open this other link: actual PPC keyword data.  Between these two sites, you’ll see how to create an advanced filter. With this first [...]

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