Decoding Your Google Analytics Acquisition Reports

Using Google Analytics to monitor your marketing campaigns gives you detailed insights into which channels drive the most traffic, and the success of individual campaigns. Each click is categorized into a channel according to the website it came from, known as the source, and the type of advertising, called the medium.

Eight different channels make up the default channel grouping under “All Traffic” in the “Acquisition” section of Google Analytics. Google separates traffic into these channels based on whether it matches the rules for the source and medium associated with the channel. For traffic to be separated into the correct channels, links must be tagged with custom source, medium and campaign information, which you can set in the Analytics dashboard.

1. Direct

When someone goes straight to your website by typing in the URL, Google counts it as direct traffic. Clicks on links in documents, such as PDF files, are direct, and an estimated 60 percent of organic search traffic may be incorrectly categorized as belonging in this channel. All URLs without custom campaign tags also show up as direct.

2. Referral

Click-throughs from third-party sites count as referrals unless they come from other search engines. This is an important channel to monitor if you guest blog, post articles on sites like Medium or use platforms like Quora to extend your reach. High levels of referral traffic could indicate your backlinking strategy is paying off.

3. Organic Search

Unpaid search results should end up in the organic channel. Performance in this category shows whether or not your SEO efforts are generating click-throughs. However, because so much of organic search traffic tends to be labeled as direct, this report may not be as reliable as those for other channels.

4. Paid Search

You’ll find analytics for all types of paid ads from search engines in this channel. PPC, CPC and other paid ad types all count no matter the search platform on which they’re run. These campaigns are usually tagged automatically, so you don’t have to worry about creating your own source or medium data.

5. Display

AdWords offers the option of auto-tagging your links so that clicks are categorized as display traffic. Other display ads, including remarketing, banners and content distributed across the Google Display Network may drive a significant amount of additional traffic, so check on this channel if you focus your marketing efforts on display ads.

6. Social

If social media marketing is a big part of your advertising strategy, you’ll want to keep an eye on this channel. All social campaigns with the proper tags show up here. Tags help you differentiate between campaigns so that you know whether your Facebook holiday ads are driving the most traffic, or the paid Instagram product promotion is responsible for a spike in sales of a particular product.

7. Email

Most email providers offer auto-tagging to separate campaign information in Google Analytics. This feature is invaluable if you send out a large number of emails, especially during the holiday shopping season, and want to know which calls-to-action are the most effective for generating leads. Clicks from email links lacking tags are categorized as direct.

8. Other Advertising

Any traffic from advertising not falling into an obvious category shows up under “Other.” These clicks could originate from ads on platforms other than search or simply not match any channel description.

Understanding Google Analytics default channels takes the guesswork out of optimizing your advertising campaigns. Use the information from your dashboard to tweak exiting campaigns and adjust your marketing budget to focus more on the channels bringing in the most traffic and driving conversions.

Need more answers deciphering your Google Analytics reports? Call the Internet Marketeers at SunAnt Interactive at 262-641-2613 to get those questions answered.