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Google Analytics obeying rel=canonical in traffic reporting?

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# 1
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭



We launched a display ad campaign a couple of weeks ago and after a couple of weeks I was happy with conversions etc. I didn't think to look at the landing page reports as everything in the Campaign reporting looked good. However, once I did I noticed that 90% of traffic from the two creatives in flight was being reported as going to a landing page that wasn't specified as a destination url for either creative. 


To be clear:


Defined traffic flow:

Creative 1 --> Landing Page A:  50%

Creative 2 --> Landing Page B:  50%


Reported traffic flow (GA):

Creative 1 --> Landing Page A:  5%

Creative 1 --> /partnerpage1:  40%

Creative 2 --> Landing Page B:  5%

Creative 2 --> /partnerpage1:  40%


/partnerpage1 is a general landing page for one of our integrations. A/B are specifically tailored variations of that page that match the copy/creative of the two ads we are running. 


Both Landing Page 1 and 2 have rel=canonical included, pointing to /partnerpage1, to ensure the duplicate content on those pages doesn't diminish the SEO value of our partner page, which we want to be indexed properly.


Given the only two destination urls provided to our advertising partner were A/B above, and they provided confirmation that those urls had been implemented correctly, the problem looks to be on our side. As a quick check I visited Landing Page A from my phone and made sure I knew where my IP was being attributed to. GA real-time showed a visitor in my location on /partnerpage1. Not Landing Page A (Note: there aren't many concurrent users on these pages).


I decided to run a test. I removed the rel=canonical tag from Landing Page A and waited a week or so to see if reported traffic from our campaign source jumped up.


Here's the result:


That ramp up began the day the code was removed. Overall campaign volume was static. /partnerpage1 saw a matching dropoff in traffic.


So, am I wrong or is GA attributing traffic to the canonical url despite it actually going to the primary url? If so it makes optimising landing pages almost impossible.



1 Expert replyverified_user

Re: Google Analytics obeying rel=canonical in traffic reporting?

Top Contributor
# 2
Top Contributor
Hi, rel=canonical is not a factor in GA. It is a factor for SEO though.
Did you just look at page traffic or landing pages?
VP & Chief Evangelist at Hub'Scan | Contact me
Level 80 Digital Analytics Warrior, KPI Therapist and Keeper of the One True Tagging Plan

Re: Google Analytics obeying rel=canonical in traffic reporting?

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 3
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
Hi Julien,

I've looked at both and the trend in the image above is the same.

I understand rel=canonical is typically an SEO tool, but given the removal of it from one of the landing pages triggered a substantial spike in attributed traffic while overall campaign traffic remained static and the related page's traffic reduced correspondingly, can we be certain it isn't somehow affecting attribution in GA?

Thanks for your help!