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Subject: Google Analytics

Category: Knowledge sharing

Date: March 2019

The channel performance overview in Google Analytics helps to evaluate the performance of your traffic sources on an overall level. But the default settings aren’t always as useful as they might seem to be at first glance. Within this article we will elaborate on how you can adjust the (Default) Channel Grouping to make it the way you want it to be.

Evaluating the performance of each campaigns, platform, source or medium are one of the most detailed levels you can evaluate your performance data. But evaluating these all individually can be very time-consuming, especially when you have more than a hundred different campaigns running at the same time. The Channel performance overview can really help to evaluate performance on an overall level.

What is Channel Grouping?

Google Analytics has a function to group data based on their source and/or medium, automatically grouping them under a Channel.
For example; all the traffic that is established by Google Ads & Bing Ads are automatically grouped under Paid Search. Making it relatively easy to monitor performance on a higher level. You example can easily see which type of traffic has generated sessions and/or conversions. Aside from that you get a high overview of the amount of interactions on-site per channel like page/session and average session duration.


Where can I find the Channel Grouping overview in Google Analytics?

You can view your Channel Performance underneath Acquisition and then Channels. By default, you will find the Default Channel Grouping view within Google Analytics.

Before we continue, it’s important to remember that this is the level of granularity within Google Analytics when you’re evaluating the incoming of your website;

Channels > Source/Medium

Meaning that your channel data is established based on data of different sources with specific mediums.


UTM’s are the base for a proper Channel Grouping

Google Analytics will not “just” recognise which source (Google, Facebook or Twitter) has brought traffic to the website, making the Channel Grouping also reliant upon a proper UTM parameters set-up for (every) online campaign. You can set these UTM parameters behind the URL you want to set the related traffic to. This is (mainly) done using these parameters: Source, Medium, Campaign, Term and/or Content. This how you can use the parameters to get traffic correctly measured in Google Analytics:

Source = Literally the source of the traffic. Mainly used to describe the platform (e.g. Google, Bing, Facebook & LinkedIn);

Medium = The marketing medium (e.g. cpc, cpm, organic or e-mail);

Campaign = The name of the campaign (e.g. BestCampaignEver);

Term = Mainly used for paid search; the used search term. However, it’s can be used for ad sets in Facebook;

Content   =  The content in the ad set;

Having a fully mapped URL with UTM parameters can then look something like this:

To give another example; when you set a campaign from an e-mail campaign in Mailchimp and you’re targeting a specific audience towards a general landing page on your website. You also have multiple click-able elements in the e-mail and you also want to measure how many sessions are created from that element in the e-mail.

First determine the UTM breakdown you want to use and then copy paste it after the specific URL you want to send traffic to:

Source = mailchimp

Medium = email

Campaign = introductionchannelgrouping

Term = testaudience1

Content = header



UTM tagging tips & rules

Please always keep these things in mind when setting up a proper UTM tagging:

  1. Make sure your final URL only contains exactly one question mark ‘?’.
  2. Each parameter must be preceded by an ampersand ‘&’, and this is the only way you can use the ‘&’ in a tagged link.
  3. Never use ‘&’, ‘#’, ‘=‘, [Space] or ‘?’ inside a UTM tag value.
  4. Capital case sensitive. So a capital letter in a UTM is not the same value as a regular letter.

Between Google Ads & Google Analytics, you can use auto tagging to automatically get Google Ads data coming in correctly underneath source / medium = google / cpc. The same goes for Bing Ads, resulting in an automated UTM tagging based on source / medium = bing / cpc. For most channels and/or other platforms you always need to use UTM tracking to establish a correct tracking of traffic.


How to use Channel Grouping when evaluating performance

Now that we’ve explained why you need UTM’s to get a proper insight we can look at the Channel data that is shaped by all the traffic coming in with a specific source/medium linked towards it.

Within Google Analytics there is the Default Channel Grouping. The Default Channel Grouping will not recognise every (new/different) UTM parameter. Traffic, that is not yet “recognised”, will come in labelled as Other. With adjusting the Channel Grouping you can arrange that GA recognises the incoming traffic.

The Default Channel Grouping is based on these conditions:

As you can see from the image above; the Default Channel Grouping will not give you any insights between any organic or paid social activities that you had running. And it could be that you want a split on your prospecting and/or remarketing activities within Display. This can be done by adjusting your Default Channel Grouping or setting up a new Channel Grouping.


How to adjust the (Default) Channel Grouping set-up

Requirements for adjusting the (Default) Channel Grouping

  1. Admin or Edit rights in the Google Analytics profile;

When you have that, follow these steps:

    1. Have a clear overview on which (GA) profile & view you use.
    2. Clear overview of the UTM tagging build-up per channel.
    3. By having a clear overview of the UTM tracking, you can determine the grouping you want to create.

Once you’ve aligned on the correct build-up, it’s time to adjust it in Google Analytics:

  1. Open Google Analytics;
  2. Click on the left bottom button Admin;
  3. Click on Channel Settings; (if you have the right rights it will stand between Filters & E-commerce settings)
  4. Click on the button Channel Grouping;

5. Select the Default Channel Grouping you want to edit;

  1. If you want to make a Channel Group for Paid Social.

Create a group and select the value you use to determine the paid social. With using the utm-tagging like: ?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=paidsocial&utm_campaign=kaptainkarl&utm_content=carousel

You can set it up as:

7. Save it and check if the data is coming in correctly.

It can take some time (max. 24-hours) before the traffic is showing up in the proper channel.


How to set-up a new Channel Grouping

You can also choose to keep your Default Channel Grouping view and create a new one. This way you always have a kind of back-up view to fall back upon. If you want to set-up a new one the steps are almost similar:

  1. Open Google Analytics;
  2. Click on the left bottom button Admin;
  3. Click on Channel Settings; (if you have the right rights it will stand between Filters & E-commerce settings)
  4. Click on the button Channel Grouping;
  1. Select to create an entirely new one or copy the existing Default and then make adjustments. We would always recommend to make a copy to prevent any errors with missing channels.

You can then also easily switch between the Channel Grouping;

Next steps with Channel Grouping

Now that the data is coming in the way you want, it’s time to run those campaigns and thrive in the amount of conversions!

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Pervormers who worked on this case:

Tim Wesseling

Sr. Search Consultant

Roland Willems

Sr. Marketing Consultant

Pervorm | Erik Hornung
Erik Hornung

Sr. Marketing Consultant