Until recently, it had been very difficult, and near impossible, to accurately report on traffic coming from Twitter posts to your website or blog.
Google Analytics has made changes recently that make it easier. According to a recent post in BtoB Magazine, "Rebooting Twitter Analytics
The issue has to do with the way Twitter referrals were tracked through popular third-party applications such as TweetDeck and HootSuite. When a user clicked on a link embedded in one of these applications, the referral to your website wasn't recorded as a Twitter referral. Instead, Google recognized it as a “direct referral,” thus hiding some of the Twitter-related traffic under the direct referral column on your analytics report.
“Now, whenever you click on a tweet, Twitter routes the URL through the t.co shortener,” said Tom Critchlow, VP-operations for Distilled NYC, an SEO and online marketing company. “So it shows up in analytics as a Twitter referral.”
However, it's not that simple.
Here's what I've discovered. If we follow the advice of this article, then in our Google Analytics, we should be able to simply go to the "Social" reporting category in the left nav and click on "Sources" to see how much traffic we get from Twitter. I did this, and for the time period I am looking at, this report shows me that my company's blogs got 588 visits from Twitter in that time period.
Alternatively, you can try using "Advanced Segments" in Google Analytics to create a segment of your traffic (for reporting) that only shows traffic from Twitter. I set this up using the "Include: Source" filter, and then started typing "twi..." and it auto-suggests three different referring URLs that are part of Twitter: mobile.twitter.com; twitter.com and twitter. See screen shot:
So, that suggests to me that it would be in my best interest to include all three of these as part of this segment I am setting up. So I do just that, and I am sure to include "t.co" as well, per Critchlow's comment in the quote above.
My advanced segment setting ends up looking like this:
Save the segment as "Twitter Referred Visits" or your title of choice. Then, run a standard report on number of visitors in the same time frame as I ran earlier for Google's "Social" report that had returned a figure of 588 visits.
I get a total of 1,651 visits! That's three times what Google's social report told me was coming from Twitter.
I feel more comfortable relying upon my own advanced filter to show me a more accurate view of just how much traffic is coming to my site from Twitter. Why? Because I set it up myself, and I'm including what I personally know to be URLs that Twitter owns and uses to refer traffic.
The BtoB Magazine article ends with a quote that helps us keep a frame of reference around even attempting to track all inbound referrals accurately to begin with:
“It's a misconception that inbound traffic over the Internet is 100% trackable,” he [Chad Pollitt, director of inbound marketing for Kuno Creative] said. “It's not; it's just more trackable than the older print methods.”
How are you reporting on Twitter referrals to your company's web properties? If you're using Google's social reports or any web analytics tool's built-in social reporting, you may be missing the mark and leaving out a large portion of traffic actually coming from tweets. I recommend building reports on your own so that you have more control. Besides, I know our social media strategy involves a heavy Twitter component, so I want to make sure I'm giving that time investment in Twitter the most accurate data I can find to justify that it's working.
I'd be curious to know if anyone else is seeing this kind of discrepancy and if you've set up your analytics in any different way to report on Twitter traffic.