I look at a lot of marketing dashboards, and one of the most common mistakes I see is this: website is often listed as the number one source of leads, sales, opportunities, or revenue.  But tracking your website as a “source” is actually a bad practice, and you should do everything you can to avoid it.

Here is why: the source is the thing that brings someone to your website.  Your website is the content that convinces the visitor to do business with you.  If you categorize sources and content separately like this, it is actually going to be very beneficial to your business, because it will help you understand how to improve results by investing in the right types of marketing areas.

Finding the Best Traffic Sources

Consider this scenario: 100 visitors come to your website from keyword “A” and 100 visitors come to your website from keyword “B.”  The traffic from keyword “A” turns into customers at 5x the rate as as the traffic from keyword “B.”  This means that the two traffic sources (keyword “A” and keyword “B”) have a vastly different value to your business, despite the fact that they are both passing through the same website.  

Therefore, you might rightly conclude that you should spend more money driving more traffic from keyword “A” to your website.  If you were not tracking things at the “source” level and instead simply lumped all traffic and customers under the “website” category, you wouldn’t be able to improve your results by focusing on the more profitable keyword while cutting the less profitable one.

Finding the Best Content or Landing Pages

Now, consider this alternative scenario: you decide to do a split test where you send 50% of keyword “A” to one page on your website, and your send the other half of the traffic from keyword “A” to another version of the page.  You may find that one of those pages leads to an uptick in conversions (I’ve seen different versions of pages on the same site lead to 1500%+ differences in sales).

In that case, you would have the same exact traffic source, but you could conclude that a different message/information/layout/color scheme results in consistently higher performance.  In this scenario, you could invest your marketing dollars in changing the other pages of your website to more closely match the highest performing version.  And again, this insight would be entirely lost if you grouped all your sales under a general “website” category.

It may seem nit-picky, but it makes a huge difference at the end of the day if you create a testing and measurement framework that clearly labels sources as sources, and content as content.

Will Marlow is a search engine marketing consultant who loves helping high growth companies optimize and improve their PPC results: and he holds seven certifications: Google AdWords Search, Display, Mobile, Shopping, and Video Certification, Google Analytics Certification, as well as certification as a Bing Ads Accredited Professional.

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