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Analytics

Yahoo and Xfinity Referral Traffic in Google Analytics

TL;DR: On May 15, 2015, Sessions from search.yahoo.com and search.xfinity.com began to appear in Google Analytics as Referrals, and we are in search of more information, such as the root cause.


Our accounts rely on accurate data from Google Analytics to help clients make business decisions and report campaign performance.  If a Session or Goal Completion is incorrectly attributed to a particular marketing channel, it could adversely impact the results of a campaign’s performance and greatly impact the business and its stakeholders.  When we started to see Sessions from search.yahoo.com and search.xfinity.com displayed in Google Analytics as Referral Sessions, it concerned us.  We are continuing to dig into this and here’s what we’ve found so far:

Referral Observations

On May 15, 2015, Sessions from search.yahoo.com began to display in Google Analytics as Referral Sessions rather than Organic Sessions for many accounts.  This trend has remained consistent since that date.  Here’s what it looks like in Google Analytics:

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In February 2014, Yahoo changed its algorithm to reflect a portion of its search traffic as Referral traffic in Google Analytics as part of its effort to enable secure searches.  This still does not explain why this shift suddenly appeared in May 2015.

Furthermore, a nearly identical shift appeared with traffic from search.xfinity.com, on almost the exact same date.  Here’s what that looks like in Google Analytics:

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The Theory

As we continue to explore this trend, our working theory is that the Sessions from search.yahoo.com and search.xfinity.com are actually Organic traffic.  However, is there a connection between the two sources?

Moreso, when we tested this theory in Google Analytics Real-Time, our Sessions from search.yahoo.com were consistnetly logged in Google Analytics as Organic Sessions from yahoo, rather than Referral.  However, when we entered the site from search.xfinity.com, our Sessions were consistently logged in Google Analytics as Referrals from search.xfinity.com.

For many accounts, this trend is coupled with an unusually high conversion rate (as high as 48%), with high numbers of Goal Completions as well (40K) over the course of one month’s time.  If these Sessions are, in fact, organic, that marketing channel loses credit for 40K valuable Goal Completions that they have achieved.

The Solution

If we can confirm that these Sessions are actually Organic, one solution that we have discussed is to create a Custom Report that includes Sessions from search.yahoo.com and search.xfinity.com as Organic Sessions, so they can can get credit for their Sessions and Goal Completions.

Have you noticed this same trend?  Do you have a theory or a tip?  Please share it in the comments.