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Channel Groupings and Source/Mediums, Say What?

Small decisions. Big decisions. Every decision in business matters. What drives these decisions? Data. Data is like a busy freeway, with vehicles of all types, makes and models zooming by. The more you know about them, the way they work, the fuel they run on, the commonalities and differences, the better business decisions you will ultimately be able to make.

Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful tool that is used to help better understand your customers, their behavior and how they interact with your business online. When GA is properly configured, data will be collected and filtered into specific business metrics, or Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). Reports can be reviewed, customized and shared with key stakeholders, to allow for more efficient business analysis such as tracking trends, understanding website flow through, evaluating marketing campaign performance, discovering user drop-off points and many other metrics. This allows for more informed decisions, like capturing and maximizing additional revenue opportunities and investing in smarter, more dialed-in marketing plans.

Let’s dive in a little more to this idea. Channel groups, or grouping the sources of traffic to your website into relevant categories for your business is important to understand what platform customers are arriving from, such as Direct, Organic Search, or Social. Then, we take these channel groupings and filter them down another level to determine what specific Source/Mediums are in each channel. Examples of this would be the specific search engine such as Google, Bing, or Safari followed by the way the user engaged such as organically, pay-per-click ad, or a referral link from another website.

Through segments and reporting, we can begin to organize the data to better understand how our business is performing. By doing this, we can begin to shift from seeing lots of generic traffic to discovering which are our top performing vehicles, which are our lowest performing vehicles, and thus customize our marketing efforts according to our business objectives.

But, what if the data isn’t specific enough? Or worse, what if the collected data is inaccurate? What happens when you discover one of your top Revenue Producing Channels is the dreaded Other/Misc Category? You end up having lots of questions and essentially no confident answers to questions such as:

  • Where do we spend our marketing dollars?

  • Who are our top customers?

  • What are our biggest opportunities?

Sound the alarm! Stakeholders want answers. It’s time to go all in and investigate how we can better capture, organize, and effectively filter our data to best fit our business objectives. This starts with clear and correct channel groupings and source/mediums.

So where do we begin? Start with proper channel grouping, which is essentially setting up your specified buckets for google to put your data into. Depending on your industry, these bucket names and setup particulars may vary, but in general a good set of buckets are: Affiliates, Direct, Email, Organic Search, Paid Search, Referral, Social, and Other. Next, set up your UTM parameters, which are the tags added to the website URL that Google Analytics uses for tracking. It is important to note that having consistent UTM parameters and naming structures will drastically reduce the occurrence of data ending up in the dreaded “other” bucket. Okay, we have made some great progress!

As we have learned, data matters. Accuracy matters. How we collect it. How we analyze it. How it ultimately drives our business forward. Technology is constantly changing, and it is important that we keep up to pace, to ensure that no matter what comes around the bend on this beautiful business joy ride, decisions about time, effort, and marketing dollars are being made utilizing the most accurate and up-to-date data tools.


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