The Why, What, and How of Custom Channels in Google Analytics

Why should you go through the trouble of defining new channels when Google Analytics offers this grouping by default? The answer’s simple: though each business uses the same channels to promote their brand and attract users to their site, the way they use each channel can differ from business to business.

For example, it might be a good idea to separate your email marketing campaigns from the automated emails sent by an e-commerce platform; it’s an easier way to monitor the results of your email marketing efforts by grouping all this traffic into a single channel, rather than filtering Source/Medium  or Campaign reports to check overall performance.

Or maybe you want to differentiate your affiliate traffic from other referring sites to better track results.

Custom channel definitions can especially come in handy when analyzing three Google Analytics reports:

  1. Assisted Conversions
  2. Model Comparison Tool
  3. Top Conversion Paths

Traffic from custom tagged campaigns (using utm_ parameters) is displayed as unavailable in those reports, by default. If you want to analyze how much they assist other channels through the conversion journey and how, you’ll need to define your own custom channel grouping.

If you need help understanding these reports you can head over to our dedicated article -> Use These 3 Key Reports To Take Your Google Analytics Skills To The Next Level.

And here’s how you do it:

      1. In the Admin section, under View, select Custom Channel Groupings and click on +New channel grouping

custom channel groupings

2. Give your new grouping a name, and start defining what traffic should be attributed to each channel.

custom channel groupings definition

Remember to include each traffic source in a specific channel, and to exclude traffic sources you wish to track separately from their default channel. Otherwise, the traffic sources which are not included in channel definitions will be grouped under Other.

For example, if you want to separate organic Facebook traffic from other social traffic, you need to define a custom channel to include facebook.com/referral as well as redefine the default Social channel to exclude facebook.com/referral.

Otherwise, you’ll end up with duplicate traffic and your number of sessions and other data will not reflect reality.

Once your custom grouping is defined, you’ll be able to apply it to reports within Google Analytics. Here’s an example of a Top Conversion Paths report, with custom campaign data, with the default channel grouping applied and with the custom channel grouping:

custom channels assisted conversions

To apply your custom channel grouping you need to select it as the Primary Dimension:

select custom channel grouping

So create your own Custom Channel Grouping and start using Google Analytics to its full potential.

Need help analyzing and interpreting data in your Google Analytics account? Take a look at services tailored to your needs here.

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