How to override Google Analytics “last click wins” behaviour

  • 0
  • August 5, 2009

Recently we talked about how to carry out funnel analysis with Google Analytics to avoid the last click taking credit for your sales.

Today I want to share an interesting tip which allows you to turn off the “last click” behaviour of Google Analytics and ensure that the first campaign gets credit for the sale. For example if somebody finds your site using a long tail keyword and decides the next day to return and make a purchase they may search directly for your brand and click on a PPC advert. This means all the credit goes to the brand PPC advert and not to the SEO campaign.

This situation can be solved by adding a simple parameter to the end of your branded PPC ad URL’s and also (if you are clever) to the end of your homepage URL if the referrer keyword matches a brand driven search.

If a visitor clicks on ads from multiple campaigns before converting for a goal, which campaign gets credit for the conversion?

Google Analytics will attribute the most recent campaign information to a conversion. For example, a visitor may initially reach your site through a CPC ad and not make a purchase. Later, this visitor may return to your site via a tagged link in an email to make their purchase. In this case, Google Analytics will attribute the more recent campaign information to the resulting sale – the tagged link in the email.

This behavior can be modified by adding the following to the end of all of your tagged links:


When Google Analytics detects this variable, it will retain the first campaign’s information, regardless of which links the user later followed to arrive at the conversion. In the example above, the conversion would be credited to the CPC campaign, if both links were tagged with the nooverride variable.

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • Patrick Altoft

    I should point out that it’s not a good idea to turn this off for ever, just for a month perhaps to get an idea of how much of your brand sales are actually non-brand sales.

  • jmorell

    Patrick, have you seen this: from John at Lunametrics? It looks like it links in quite nicely to both this post and the one previous about funnels.

    Basically you can track more than one ‘touchpoint’ using Google analytics, so you can see both the organic search and the PPC brand ad click from a site visitor. I’ve not tried it personally, but it’s on my list…

  • vasanth

    thanks for the information

  • lifeatabhi

    This was really interesting.
    I will try applying this.

  • Ruud Kok

    Great post, easy to implement for our PPC campaign. And will need to look into conditional redirects in order to apply this for organic searches as well.

  • tag44

    Thanks Patrick for the lovely post and for sharing the Google analytic secrets.

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  • Andrew B.

    Does it just provide first click attribution for a single session or is it for some time period afterwards? i.e. if I click on a PPC ad, check out a product, abandon, then revisit and purchase 7 days after typing in the site URL, would Google be attributing that as a PPC sale or direct traffic?

  • Oberna

    What happens if visitor clicks PPC advertisement. He returns via organic search (e.g. company name in Google) and completes the goal.
    What will be the source of goal? PPC or organic?

  • Chotrul SEO

    This is very interesting indeed. This last few days the need for 1st click attribution has come up and something I need to look into. Knowing who is actually driving your conversions (as against, what was the last click that led to the conversion) is really important. Your simple and elegant approach looks like one I need to consider. Many thanks for sharing this.

  • Eric

    “I should point out that it’s not a good idea to turn this off for ever, just for a month perhaps to get an idea of how much of your brand sales are actually non-brand sales.”

    Devils advocate – why shouldn’t it be left turned off? Don’t we want to focus on first-touch attribution so we can intelligently bid on the non-brand terms? It seems like brand bidding is usually cheaper anyway, the real “battle” is on the non-brand terms.

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