Business-to-business marketers are undervaluing Twitter’s contribution to their businesses.
That’s hard to believe when many B2B marketers are glomming on to Twitter like it’s the last shiny object opportunity they will ever have (even turning to spamming
), but it’s true. It is happening because Web analytics packages dramatically underreport traffic from Twitter.
How many leads came from Twitter? How many website visits? How many purchases? When your Web analytics package doesn’t recognize that traffic is coming from Twitter, Twitter doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
Twitter’s traffic is significantly understated
The impact is big. On my site (B2Bdigital.net
), Google Analytics is underreporting Twitter traffic by 30 percent.
Over seven weeks, underreporting peaked at more than 40 percent and varied widely. The chart below compares Google Analytics and Twitter’s Site Analytics reported traffic week by week.
Three reasons Twitter results are underreported
Years ago, there were quite a few articles saying Twitter traffic was underreported by a huge margin. Twitter’s introduction of the t.co link shortener was supposed to address the issue.
Although t.co has helped, as Twitter becomes more important for marketers, accurate measurement is more important as well. Problems persist for a number of reasons, but these three appear to be the most prevalent in my investigation:
1. Browsers don’t always provide referring URLs. Twitter reporting relies on having accurate and complete referring URL data.
2. You can’t rely on campaign tracking codes in social media. For paid media programs, you provide the URLs with tracking strings that your analytics solution recognizes. On social media, most traffic will come from other people’s sharing of your content. You don’t control the URL that is shared.
3. Other people’s campaign codes interfere with your reporting. Many social media tools, including Buffer, one of my favorites, automatically append their own campaign codes. In Google Analytics this overrides referring URLs completely, and it is surprisingly common.
Here is an example of No. 3: Two weeks ago, Mike Volpe shared one of my posts on Twitter, but visits from his Tweet aren’t reflected in my Google Analytics reporting. Here’s his Tweet:
The link expands to http://b2bdigital.net/2013/11/07/b2b-marketing-twitter-spammers/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=2700945
, and reporting for Mike’s Tweet is broken out separately from other Twitter traffic.
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Although this example is, thankfully, easy to spot in reporting, after implementing the solution outlined below I found traffic from Twitter reported with a wide variety of labels, some of which originally appeared in Google Analytics to be emails or even different social networks.
How to get back (some of) your Twitter traffic data
If you use Google Analytics, you can’t see the referring URL if tracking codes have been added to a URL. However, with a custom filter you can capture and store the referring domain for later reporting. Below is a screenshot of the custom Google Analytics filter I am using to capture this information.
The “Extract A” value is (https?://)(([^/]+)/).
This works for all traffic, not just traffic coming from Twitter. Here are three ways you can use this data, in addition to getting more complete reporting from Twitter and other social sites.
• See actual referrers for campaign traffic. For example, by selecting my email newsletter traffic and adding the new referring URL field as a second dimension, I can see traffic that was previously reported as being from email subscribers is from when those subscribers shared the post on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sites.
Eric Wittlake leads the media practice at Babcock & Jenkins, an agency in Portland, Ore. A version of this article originally appeared on B2B Digital Marketing where Eric regularly shares his views.
• See how your campaigns are shared on each social network. To do this, report on your new referring URL field, add Source / Medium or Campaign as your secondary dimension, and filter the report for the social network you’re targeting.
• Monitor traffic trends over time with a more consistent methodology. Although browser changes will impact referring URL reporting, removing the impact of changes in the behavior of social sharing tools like Buffer or Hootsuite will make your trend data more accurate.