The Misnomer of Traffic Source Reporting - Social Media Explorer
The Misnomer of Traffic Source Reporting
The Misnomer of Traffic Source Reporting

Businesses that execute on the practice of measuring revenues, conversions and, yes, return on investment, especially as they relate to social media, primarily derive those measures using Google Analytics, or similar. And it makes sense. You either track online purchases and amend each purchase to include the traffic source (direct, organic search, paid search,,, etc.) or you do the same with conversions and backtrack the math to know what each conversion’s average value to your company is and you have fairly accurate reads on where revenue is coming from.

But there’s also a big misnomer in reading your revenue by traffic source most companies forget to take into consideration. You may have derived revenue from Facebook or Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn, but you’re not further asking the question of Why you’ve derived that revenue.

Look at this chart from a random Google Analytics screen shot I found online and made some minor edits to ensure the sources aligned with the discussion:

I can see that $3,055.99 came from Facebook, but did that revenue come from posts I proactively placed on my page that drove visitors to my site to purchase or did that revenue come from my fans organically sharing my deals and promotions with their friends? Or was it a combination of the two?

This is why campaign tracking, custom URLs and the like are so important in measuring what you’re getting out of social or any other channel. SEO folks understand this since tracking revenue and conversion by keyword helps them optimize and maximize efficiency in their campaigns. Too few social media marketers or even general digital marketers are overlooking this important granularity in your campaigns. You know you’re deriving revenue from Facebook or Twitter, but not what part of your activity on Facebook or Twitter is effective.

Challenge yourself to get granular. Lose yourself in the details … at least when setting up various promotions and campaigns. If you know your coupon of the week program drove $1,300.57, your organic posts that lead back to the website drove $425.67 and your Get-It-By-Midnight-Friday campaign drove $89.67, you can better delineate where you were successful and not within your activity on that channel.

None of this should be news to you. But for many of you, it is. How about we make 2013 the Year of Measurement for our social efforts?

For more on understanding the intricacies of tracking campaigns in Google Analytics, check out Nichole’s explanation of how to do use them with HootSuite on her old blog.

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at
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  • This will be new year resolution for me. Well, Social networking is very growing now a days , so I am sure that It will definitely rocking.

  • Great post. I’m definitely working on getting more granular this year. 

  • Yes, yes, and YES! – UTM track every link & use custom landing pages #FTW!

  • Just started doing this with a client, and link tagging is so crucial to our ongoing optimization plan now. I’ve probably said it a million times, and she’s probably sick of me at this point, but Nichole rocks!

  • Jason:

    I’m glad you wrote this. Conversion attribution is one of the least appreciated and misunderstood sciences on the web IMO. Given your example above, the next question could be, “is the revenue credit attributed to the visitor’s first touch, last touch or some permutation of them all?”

    Slingshot SEO’s multi-touch attribution study shows that 100% of the top 20 paths (channels) to conversion required two to nine visits from various channels. It’s likely that the conversions above have been to the site before from a different traffic source without converting. Should that source get some credit, too? Should all of the sources get some credit?

    Unfortunately, as an industry, we’re not all on the same page on this one yet. What are your thoughts?


  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    Hi Jason wish you a very happy new year. Surely lets give it a try and make 2013 the Year of Measurement for our social efforts.

  • Guilty as charged over here, Jason. I admittedly don’t track these things, and I should. I’m actually a stats guy, but this is an area I’ve never fully understood. Put it on my list for things to do in 2013.

    Thanks for the info, my man!


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