Is Google analytics misrepresenting its own search traffic numbers?

I came across a curious issue with Google analytics the other day. I had just posted a blog entitled Online marketing explained with reference to cows.

I could see that the post was generating a lot of traffic and wanted to know where it was coming from, so I went to and typed in “online marketing explained” to see if the post had already been indexed and if it was ranking highly for that key phrase.

Sure enough, the blog post had been indexed and it was showing up in the first or second spot in google, ranked amongst the posts indexed in the last week. Awesome! Now I wanted to know if all the traffic was coming from that key phrase or were there others, so I headed to analytics.

As it turned out, only one visit had come from that keyword in Google. Instead, the influx of traffic was coming from social networks like Stumbleupon and reddit and not organic search. Here’s the strange part:

The visit recorded by Google analytics for the keyword search “online marketing explained” was credited to my service provider and not Google search. But obviously, I never actually clicked through to my page because I already knew what the post was about.I tried the experiment again, and sure enough, Google analytics was registering a visit from google search despite there being no actual visit. In other words, a user only has to search for a term that results in (I assume) a first page result for your site and Google will lead you to believe that it sent a visitor to your page. It’s treating a search result as an actual visit, which seems really underhanded.

Now, maybe they have a good explanation (I will ask them), but it seems to me that this is a subtle, but deliberate, way to boost the perceived importance of Google search for webmasters using analytics (which is a lot of webmasters).

There are a lot of really serious ramifications to this, which I will blog about shortly.