Your customers in their own words. Setting up GA Keyword filters.

One of the things I talked about at the analytics panel at Inman this year was “reading your customers’ minds” via the keyword reports. One of the audience members from the panel asked me to explain how to set up one of my branded or non-branded keyword reports in Google Analytics (obligatory schilling: USM clients often have this set up for them from day one). I’ll give the step-by-step at the end but first let’s catch everyone up in case they missed the Inman panel.

How can reading keyword reports improve my business?

The keywords report shows you the actual phrases and words that your site visitors typed into a search engine before they got to your site. It gives you one of the best insights into their thinking including their spelling capability and all. Here are just a few things you might use keyword reports to do:

  • Come up with new blog post ideas. You will often find complete questions in your keyword reports. Write a blog post that answers the question. This is kind of like predicting the long tail.
  • Identify common misspellings that are used when people find you. You can laugh at their spelling or make some content targeted at the misspelling. I recommend the latter.
  • Make decisions about brand advertising by examining the relationship between branded search and non-branded search.

Branded what-huh?

“Branded search” is any search someone types that includes your brand in it. For example, anytime someone types “Union Street Media blog” into a search engine it’s a “branded search.” I can feel pretty confident that this person knows something about the company for which I work. Or at least more than someone who types in “best real estate web design” or “real estate internet marketing blog.”

If I don’t like the ratio of branded to non-branded then I can take action by doing some advertising or other attention-getting activity. Make sense?

Sure, so how do I split out branded from non-branded search in my Google Analytics?

Glad you asked. First, log into your GA account and look to the left of the screen. You should see the reports nav bar.

Google Analytics nav bar

Click on “Traffic Sources” to expand the menu.

GA nav bar, traffic sources

Don’t get distracted by all those other awesome reports. We’re on a mission here. We can talk about those other reports later if you like.

Now, click on the report called “Keywords.”

GA nav

This is when you should see the list of all the different search terms people used to find your site. Your branded search and your non-branded search will be all mixed together in this total-picture report. We want to make a version that splits out the people who already know about us (branded search) from the people might not know us but who are looking for something we might provide (non-branded search).

This is where the magic starts. At the bottom of that list of keywords there’s a small, discrete pulldown and textfield:filter your GA keywords by

Leave the pulldown to “containing” and enter in your branded term in the text field. I try to keep this as short as possible. For the company where I work, Union Street Media, I only use the word “union” to filter. I figure if it has that one word in it, then I am reasonably sure they know about us (it also spares me from having multiple versions of this report for Street vs St. etc). So keep it short if you can.

[Update]But what if you need two words and not just one? Warning, the following is a little geeky. If you think you can get by with just one word then skip to the next paragraph. My pal Nate, who works for a certain company that makes awesome teddy bears, reminds me that if you need more than one word to really highlight your brand you can use the “pipe” character to separate them. The “pipe” is usually the character on the same key as the key. It looks like this: “|”. So if your company was “Best Real Estate Site” and and you knew that people were searching for your brand using the phrase “Best Real Estate Website” then you might want to have a search filter that goes like this: “best real estate site | best real estate website.” Remember  to test it and make sure it’s working the way you expect it to work. Also, skip it if it’s getting in your way.[End-Update]

Click the go button and you will now see all the variations on your branded search. I bet you’ll be surprised. Now, you don’t want to go through this exercise every time you check your analytics. Add this report to your dashboard by going near the top of the page and clicking the “add to dashboard” button.
Add branded search keyword report to you google analytics dashboard

Ok. Now you want to add the opposite of this report to your dashboard as well, right? So go back down to the pulldown and switch it to “excluding,” hit go and then add to dashboard.

You now have two reports on your dashboard called “Keywords.” It will be pretty obvious to you which one is your branded and which is your non-branded. Use these reports to make your business better.

Here’s some bonus uses for this little technique:

  • Filter searches by your geographic location (how important is your location?)
  • Filter searches by your office name (how important is your office name in driving traffic to your site?)
  • Filter searches by the name of someone in your office (who is spreading the word?)
  • Filter searches by your franchise name (how important is your franchise in driving traffic to your site?)

6 thoughts on “Your customers in their own words. Setting up GA Keyword filters.

  1. Gahlord, you’re amazing. I missed your panel was only at Inman for 2 days so thanks for this follow up–really great!

    Gonna send our peeps here. I’ll also alert our sales reps to USM for clients who want our plugin product [marketing and lead manager] because they want a custom site… or any client who also wants a custom site to add to their other real estate online properties… you guys are d’best.


  2. Great stuff here GD! I found that we were getting traffic from misspelling coldwell to caldwell….interesting….the New England accent in type! I also discovered that currently our brand is drawing a lot of traffic.
    Thanks for the tips and the tweet to this blog.

  3. Great tip! And it can be more than one word; just separate ’em with a pipe, i.e., “|”.

    For example, one of our brand names is “Calyx and Corolla”. Check out these permutations I have to plug in to do an adequate job of filtering in/out that brand name:


    Good times. [:-)]

  4. Hey Nate,

    Doh, thanks for the pipe! I’ll update the post to include that little gem.

    C’mon though “alfax” people really type in alfax when looking for your “Calyx and Corolla” brand? Yow! I guess at some point I think there is a diminishing return on precision.

    Maybe you can get the brand managers to come up with spellable names? There’s a business decision for you. 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by all of you!

  5. Hey Gahlord. Re “alfax”, I think it showed up in the referring keywords at some point, maybe tied to a sale, so…

    As long as we’re talking pipes (“|”), Justin Cutroni would probably also want to chime in about using regular expressions, another mega-powerful way to leverage logic in filtering.

    For example, here’s another filter string I made to weed in/out variations on “Vermont Teddy Bear”:

    (armont|ermont|emount|ermaont|ermmont|ermnt|ermoant|ermomt|ermonth|ermony|ermoint|ermoont|ermot|ermount|ernmont|eromont|errmont|ertmont|emont|ermint|ermon|eront|vrmont|vt|vt.)+.*(bear|”teady|”teddie|”teddy|”tedy|bear co||bearco||tead|tebby|tedd|tedy|eddie|eddy|teedy|ttead|ttedd|eadie|edy)+|(“teady|”teddie|”teddy|”tedy|tead|tebby|tedd|tedy|eddie|eddy|teedy|ttead|ttedd|eadie|edy)+.*(ermont|emount|ermaont|ermmont|ermnt|ermoant|ermonth|ermony|ermoont|ermot|ermount|ernmont|eromont|errmont|ertmont|emont|ermint|ermon|vt|vt.)+|bear( |o| o |-o-|%2520|%20|+)*gram

    And yes, people actually have spelled those words successfully (i.e., they got to our site) in such a wide variety of ways.

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