Excluding Keywords in Google Analytics – “This” or “That”

January 8, 2009

A major metric I use when evaluating progress on a campaign for a client is total traffic to the client’s site from organic search, typically viewed monthly.  Ranking is great, but if you’ve done SEO for even a short time  you soon learn that ranking doesn’t matter unless it produces traffic.  And traffic does matter unless it produces conversions.

Anyhow, in cases where the client has a very strong brand name its common for them to have a ton of organic search referrals for their brand, common mispellings of the brand, various product lines, etc.  As an internet marketer who was likely hired after they created their main offering, you can’t typically take full credit for that traffic…

That’s where the containing and excluding filter comes in handy.  In Analytics, I click the following:

Traffic Sources > Keywords > Non-Paid

That pulls up all traffic from organic search, and then I went to view it monthly over the past 2 years for a client I’ve been working with for not quite 6 months.  The graph looks okay, but it includes a ton of traffic from their various brand names.  That shouldn’t be factored in here, since my primary job for them isn’t branding, its bringing in people who are searching on non-branded keywords – keywords relating to the type of product they offer, or the need that the product fulfills.  Here is the original graph, with brand-related searches included:


With the little “find keywords containing” or “find keywords excluding” dropdown you can weed out a branded keyword to help get rid of that skew effect.  Lets say the company’s name is ABCDEFG Consulting.  If you type in “ABCDEFG” it will remove all keywords with that in the string.  Problem is it won’t remove mispellings, like ABCEFGD.  Okay, you can get around that by typing a partial string into the exclude box, like “ABC”.  But what if  you want to exclude two totally different keyword strings?  What is ABCDEFG also makes XYZ product?  There may be sizeable search traffic on both of those keywords that you wish to remove from your data set.  There is not a second dropdown to use.  You also can’t type in common lanuage like “this OR that”, or in our case “ABCDEFG OR XYZ”.  I only had need for these a few times until recent, and so I’ve played around with exporting the data and running my filters in Excel…

The I took 5 minutes and found this Google help page about regular expressions.  Its actually quite easy, just use the pipe symbol “|” to separate and exclude two or more distinct keyword strings.  In this case type in “ABCDEFG|XYZ” and it will remove both of those.  I’ve tried it with three keyword stems too and it was quite helpful.  To see the difference, here is the graph after I removed the major brand-related keywords.


Quite a difference!

Note that weeding out the brand traffic may make the graph look better, though it could also make it worse, depending on how much brand search volume there is.  Its very possible for your non-brand-search traffic volumes to be moving in one direction, while brand searches are moving in the opposite direction.  As a result, your top-line number might be flat or slightly up or down and not really indicative of what is happening as a result of non-brand-focused SEO efforts.

One Response to “Excluding Keywords in Google Analytics – “This” or “That””

  1. Tim Staines Says:

    Everyone in SEO already knows this, but for anyone else, the “Pipe” character can be typed on a PC by holding “Shift” and hitting the backslash key: \

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