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The term “search traffic” refers to the entire traffic from various visitor sources through a specific medium. Search access may include viewing a link in the organic SERPs, a click on the paid search, or third-party referencing in the ad networks. Search traffic is a standard segment in Google Analytics that includes traffic from organic sources and the paid search to analyze traffic flows from a variety of perspectives. In general, the term search traffic refers to the number of all accesses that have been made via search engines.
If Google Analytics is being used, the traffic of a website is assigned by Google to the various visitor sources as best as possible. The software provides various reports that can be analyzed with segments. One of these includes search accesses. Individual traffic sources such as organic and paid search are summarized here. Search traffic includes any redirects from a source to a website from organic and paid search results. Google Analytics works with traffic source dimensions. Each access has a source, medium, possible keywords, campaign, or content. The search traffic segment refers to the medium through which the traffic came, in other words, from the two media sources that are central in the web analysis.
How it works
The criterion used by Google Analytics to distinguish the reports includes organic and paid search accesses through a regular expression and can be found in Google’s segment definition:
Medium: conforms to regular definition "^(cpc|ppc|cpa|cpm|cpv|cpp|organic)$"
The search traffic includes both organic traffic (including from different search engines such as Bing, Yahoo or Ask) as well as traffic generated by the paid search. There is no distinction made between users who used Google Search and those who clicked an ad, as is the case with other segments. This data provides information about where website visitors come from and what medium they used to reach the site.
However, search traffic has to be distinguished from search terms and search queries, even if individual search terms play a role in organic traffic and certain keywords for paid ads. In Google AdWords, optimizations can be done based on keywords. Sources, media, device and campaign tracking are also of importance in Web analytics if you want to attribute traffic streams to their original sources.
Numerous analysis scenarios can be carried out by means of a comparison of different traffic sources and the differentiation of segments.
- A scenario that Google itself proposes is targeting mobile ads in a location that have a high return on investment value. The search traffic segment is applied to demographics and mobile devices to identify highly profitable locations for ads. Traditional ads for desktop devices can also be optimized.
- Because users often click ads in the organic search results without originally intending, the search hits segment can also be used for these cases. For example, when displaying advertisements on specific landing pages, which are also indexed in the SERPs, the usage of the segment is useful to consider the total traffic generated by this landing page, regardless of whether the traffic is organic or paid 
- If sitelinks are displayed in the SERPs for this landing page as well, this performance data is will be provided when the search traffic segment is used. Sitelinks that do not have high KPIs can then be devalued in the Search Console under Sitelinks.
- Because AdWords campaigns are also placed on landing pages which are organically indexed, the search traffic segment can also be used for comparisons, for example, to measure and compare the performance of the campaign page in the organic and paid area.
In essence, the search segment can be used to create many different reports, each of which can provide valuable insights. In individual cases, however, this depends on the individual objectives of the project and the specific requirements of campaigns and actions. In the case of more complex analysis approaches, aspects such as multi-channel funnels, channel groupings, and tracking in e-commerce also play a role.
Relevance to web analysis
Segmentation options are extremely numerous in the Google Analytics web analytics tool. The search traffic segment is designed to aggregate two subsets of visitor sources: organic and paid search traffic. The segment can be used on its own or be used with other segments. Google also provides standard segments to be used as templates for custom segments. However, in these cases, Google’s recording and calculation methods should be well understood and this requires a certain amount of basic knowledge about GA and regular terms.
If you want to make full use of the possibilities of segmentation in GA, you should be aware of the background of the individual segments. Search traffic through different visitor sources is only one option for segmentation, which refers to the medium through which the visitors have reached a website. Google allows simultaneous display of four segments for almost every report. Segments that include user types, geodata, content, engagement or the user device can also be used for analysis and applied to the numerous reports.
- Access Source Dimensions support.google.com. Accessed on 07/15/2016
- Measuring paid and organic search results support.google.com. Accessed on 07/15/2016
- -segmentation / segmenting-google-analytics / How to Use (Advanced) Segment in Google Analytics smartinsights.com. Accessed on 07/15/2016