This is the 20th lesson video from my course The Exact Process For Setting Up Google Analytics – https://www.thequantifiedweb.com/exactga.
I decided to post the videos from the lessons publicly, but I encourage you to log into the course because from within the course you can access the written notes and the checklists, plus access my special offer. The course is completely free to register 🙂
The Channels report is a lot more useful than Source / Medium or Source in my opinion because it’s higher level rather than being too deep in the weeds. Source / Medium can be really frustrating to use because of the level of detail. Your marketing team may even customize the Source / Medium when they use third-party tools to upload content. When this happens you end up with Facebook, facebook, facebook.com, m.facebook.com and lm.facebook.com in your Source / Medium report. These are all treated as different sources unless you combine them all in one place. All of this leads to just way too much detail to be useful. Channels are the best way to pull all the related Source / Mediums under one label that can be used for your reports.
The channels that come out of the box with Google Analytics take a high-level perspective, but sometimes you need just a bit more detail. If you’re a heavy user of social media, for example, its helpful to compare Facebook results directly against your Google Ads results, but unfortunately the default channels just lump all Social Media together and all Paid Search together. The best way to separate them out into traffic sources that are highly relevant for your business is to create custom acquisition channels. These are basically labels that you give to the primary ways that you bring in traffic so that you can compare them to each other.
Unfortunately, even though custom channels are incredibly useful and I always set them up for any clients I work with, they’re not the simplest thing to set up. With this video you will learn our templated way of doing it, otherwise, you might get stuck trying to work it out on your own.
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Welcome to Lesson Twenty in the Exact Process for Setting Up Google Analytics by The Quantified Web and this lesson we are going to go through setting up custom channels. Now, the channels are going to help you find out where your traffic came from. So there’s a couple of different ways that you can look where your traffic came from. It’s called Acquisition in Google Analytics. There’s the Channel Report and then there’s also Source/Medium or Source Reports.
Now, the trouble with using Source/Medium is you just have too much detail in there, it’s really not useful for getting a good snapshot of what’s going on but when you use the default Channel Report that comes with Google Analytics, things aren’t always helpful in there either. For a start, all of the social channels are just lumped under social and there’s no separation — so there’s no separation between paid and free traffic sources. They’re all lumped in together as well.
So I usually like to separate out major social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest if you’re using it and in some cases, depending on your data strategy, I like to separate paid Facebook from organic Facebook for example.
Alrighty, so let’s go through and see how to set up these Custom Channels. Alright, so the first thing you’re going to want to do is to go to thequantifiedweb.com/exactga. Oh, I don’t know why that took so long to load in and then you want to put your email address in and click Get Started Today. I think I might be having a slow internet connection today. Oh, goodness, oh here we go.
Alright, so you want to go down to Configure Custom Channels and here’s how to do it. Hmmm, it’s got to be my internet connection. We haven’t got it running slow before. Alright, so the first thing we want to do is — actually, let me just go through here. So, so basically we’re creating custom names for each of the main marketing channels that you’re using to bring traffic to your website and this enables you to set up reports that aggregate well.
So we want to have, you want to be able to separate the different ways that people are coming to your website in a way that is useful to you when you’re trying to work out how much money to spend on different things.
Alrighty, so let’s go back to the Filtered Data No Params view. Now, if you’ve been following along with me we set this one up quite early in the piece and if this is the first one that you’ve looked at please go to an earlier lesson to learn about that view.
Now, just to note here sometimes it can be… there’s a little bit testing involved in getting the custom channels right so it’s best to get it all working in one and then follow through in all of your other views to make them all look the same.
Alright, so let’s go to Acquisition and we want All Traffic and Source/Medium. Now, what we’re going to do is find out what kind of traffic you have coming through your Google Analytics. Now, if you have paid campaigns or if you’re using an agency, you might have some custom things in here that we need to turn into their own channels.
So we want to look for any traffic that doesn’t fit any of the standard channels. Now, that helps my team know what those are but basically in terms of standard — actually, I can, Acquisition, I have to go to the channels one. Let me just show you want the standard channels are first.
Alright, so standard channels will be Direct, Organic Search, Social, Referral. Then you’ll have, you’ll have paid ads, sorry, paid search and there’ll be display and there’ll be a few others as well but you’re going to see this. So the Standard Default Channel Groupings there are a little bit too few, there’s just not quite enough of them whereas if you go to Source/Medium you just get too many.
And the other really annoying thing about Source/Medium is Facebook, for example, have facebook.com and then that will have l.facebook.com and then there’s like instagram.com and l.instagram.com, m.facebook, all these different services that are all essentially the same thing and you don’t want — like if you want to know how many people came from Facebook, you don’t want to know that 19 people came from facebook.com but 6 people came from l.facebook.com and five came from m.facebook.com. That’s just far too complicated.
Whereas if you look at the default channels it just lumps them all under Social. So now you know you’ve got 40 people coming from Social and then if you want to break it up into Facebook, Instagram, etcetera, you need to click through onto that but then you could no longer compare these to all your other channels which are quite annoying. I like to see them all compared against each other because then you can do nice pie charts at the top of the thing.
Alrighty, so anyway back to what we were doing. So we’re really only interested in the top ten or so because you’re going to have little, you’re going to have weeds down here. There are actually seventeen rows and there’s going to be all of this one season, two seasons that you’ll start to see because you’ve got a long list, we’re just interested in the top ten.
Now, I can see that this particular client has direct traffic. They’ve got organic search through Google organic. They’ve got Facebook. They’ve got — so this can come on the organic search. So they’ve got Instagram, again Facebook and we got this Facebook one as well. Now, you might notice that this one has a capital F whereas this one has a lowercase f and that one doesn’t have .com is because this one is being set up manually with a tool of some sort. So you can have a tool that posts directly to Facebook and then it will override what you’ve got as the Source/Medium. So you’re going to be looking out for those types of things.
Alrighty, so we basically just wanted to see if there was anything unusual. So we’re looking out for any traffic that doesn’t fit any of the standard channels and in this case, we do have one actually. We’ve got that one that was Facebook with a capital C, so I’ll just make a note of that, sorry, not C. Facebook with a capital F. Don’t know where I learned to spell.
So we made a note here that it might have been customised by overriding the Source/Medium, so that’s the case with that Facebook one. This can easily be done by marketers and software and can be the top cause of much gnashing of teeth in the custom channels set up.
Alrighty, so let’s actually do it. Let’s go to Channels and we’re going to Admin. Now, go to Channel Settings and Channel Grouping. Now, we don’t want to lose your current Default Channel Grouping — oh, here, this is what all the standard ones are by the way. So you got Direct, Organic Search, Social, Email, Affiliate, Referral, Paid Search, Other Advertising and Display. So those are the standard ones but I like to have a few more.
Alright, so we’re going to copy this one by clicking Copy over here. Actions –> Copy and we want to rename the copy to Original Default Channel Grouping. So that we still got it, you know where our leads at, okay and click Save.
Alright, so now we’ve got a Default Channel Grouping and an Original Default. So we want to open the default one, do open this default one and not the original default because it only has one default at a time it won’t — it can let you switch to the other one but if you go to import your data into Google Data Studio it will only use the Default Channel Grouping.
Alright, so we’re going to create a Facebook channel. So let’s define a new channel and name it Facebook. Alrighty, so you click here, Define a new channel. Now, if we’re going to be separating the PPC traffic from Organic traffic, name it Facebook Organic. If unsure, check with the person who designed the data strategy. So I like to check what their paid ad strategy is and make sure that we have these channels the way they want to.
So in this particular client, I’m just going to set it up as Facebook and not Facebook Organic and Facebook PPC but if they’re wanting to compare their organic with their PPC then I would set it up the other way. Alright, so I’m going to ignore this, I’m just going to call it Facebook.
Alright, use the search box to find the Source and select it. I’m going to type in Source. Alrighty, now we want Facebook in that text box and then facebook.com. Alright, so this facebook.com, that is the standard default way of, oops, this is the standard default way that Facebook comes in. Alright, so — but this isn’t going to capture the Facebook with a capital F. So I think we have, I think we have some instructions for it down later for the unusual ones but I’m actually just going to do it while I’m in it.
So, oops, go working, alright. Now, I think I’ve got some instructions later but basically, if the Source contains facebook.com, that’s definitely Facebook and you can see that you can pick through facebook.com, m.facebook.com, l.facebook.com but the, if we use contains instead of equals then all of them contains facebook.com so you’re fine.
Now, in this particular case though, the client also has Facebook with a capital F, not capital C and that also was facebook traffic. So I’m just going to actually skip ahead and I want to do OR because this procedure can be a little bit confusing if you’re not used to logicals. So I’m just going to do OR–>Source–>contains–Facebook. Alright, so we’ve got one with the capital F as well because this one with a capital F would not have been picked up by that so we need to choose both of them.
Alrighty, now what do we get up to, oh actually I’ve said that we want — I shouldn’t have skipped it. Alright, so we want Facebook Organic. For this Facebook we want Source–>contains. Alright, so let’s actually just remove what I started doing in. So we want facebook.com, we do AND Medium – exactly matches – referral because that’s going to pick up the standard ones. Sorry, I got a bit ahead of myself. Alright, so that’s going to pick up the standard one. Okay, it gets a bit tricky actually.
In this case, we actually have to go against this, this — because we have one with a capital F and one that doesn’t have like — because we’ve got one standard and one that has a capital F, we actually can’t do it this way so the way that we would go and set it up isn’t going to work in this case because it doesn’t let us create a new row. So I would actually change this in this case, to instead of Source I would do Source/Medium–>contains–>facebook.com/referral. That’s still going to capture all of those and then I would do OR and this is where it can be a little bit tricky setting up these custom channels. Sometimes we have to test it a few times because my team will follow the procedure but sometimes there’s a few, a few ones.
Alright, so in this case, it’s actually Source/Medium–>contains–>facebook.com/referral would be one definition of Facebook or we’ve got Source/Medium–>contains–>Facebook with a capital F. Alright, now we want to pick a colour. So it doesn’t really matter which one, whichever colour you like. Alright, picked that, picked the red and then done.
Alright, now we want to create an Instagram channel. So let’s Define a new channel and we, now we didn’t have anything weird with Instagram so we’re just going to follow the procedure for this one. So we’re going to call this one Instagram and again if we’re going to be separating PPC from Organic we can do Instagram Organic.
Some of the pictures will show Instagram Organic or it kind of depends on how we did it in the example that we took screenshots from. Now, we want to go and find Source and we’re going to do the instagram.com. Oh, hang on, we don’t want the l.instagram.com. So if we do just instagram.com then it will cover all the different permutations.
Alrighty, and we want Medium – exactly matches – referral. I usually separate out the Source and the Medium because there can be times when you need to — there can be times when the logic requires you to separate them all out because people are overridden certain parts of it. So exactly matches – referral. Alright, and pick a different colour. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s different.
Alrighty, now we’re going to rename the Social channel to Other Social because it’s going to have other things other than those. Social, that one and what we can do here so this will match anything that’s social but the way that it works is if it’s matched from the ones that are higher in the order then it won’t match here. So it won’t match twice. So the Instagram and Facebook will come in first and then anything that’s left over will get across this Other Social.
So we want the Paid Search channel to be called Other Paid Search because we’re going to add AdWords. Alright, so we’re going to do Google Ads. Now, this client doesn’t have Google Ads but it’s so common that we might as well add it anyway. And I like to separate Google Ads from all the other paid search because I don’t really want to combine — I don’t want Bing ads to be combined with other paid search and sometimes depending on how some others set it up, Facebook paid can sometimes end up in that other paid search which is really annoying because it’s not a paid search. It’s actually, you know display or social, social advertising but yes, so I like to separate out Google Ads. You don’t really spend that much on Bing Ads generally. At least I haven’t come across that many who were using Bing Ads as their primary traffic.
Alrighty, so we’ve called that Google Ads and we’re going to say that it’s a System Defined Channel. Select System Defined Channel from the Ad — oh, it’s not at the Ad Content Menu, it’s actually the rows here but we’re going to choose System Defined Channel and have Paid Search –> AND –> Source exactly matches. Basically, if it’s Paid Search and it’s Google, we’re going to have this in lowercase, yes google. We want a different colour.
So basically, if it is, if the System Defined Channel is Paid Search and also the Source exactly matches google then it’s going to come up as Google Ads. Alrighty, email channel, alright, so let’s adjust this one. So we open Email and we’ve got System Defined Channel matches Email but we can do better than that. We can also do OR Medium contains Email because sometimes I see emails come through but for some reason, System Defined Channel doesn’t pick it up.
Now, I’ll tell you what, this is an interesting one. So I think if it has a capital Email then it comes through as in the System Defined Channel but if it has lowercase it doesn’t always so I’m doing lowercase email. Select the lowercase option. Alright, and pick a different color. Again it doesn’t matter what colour you’ve done.
Alright, and this is one you will see if you noticed traffic sources/mediums that don’t fit any of the standard channels then we want to — okay, now actually this is some other social media ones. So we’ve also got Pinterest and LinkedIn but not everyone uses Pinterest or LinkedIn. I didn’t recall saying Pinterest or LinkedIn in this particular set up so we’re not going to worry about these ones. So if you didn’t see Pinterest or LinkedIn then skip them but otherwise, you can create Pinterest and you can create LinkedIn.
If we’re separating PPC from Organic then do these PPC specific ones but we’re not doing a separate PPC set up in this case. Alright, so we’ve got to save it. So it’s one of these things actually where these custom channels are very much based on what you’ve got in your traffic so you could follow exactly what I’ve done and that could be a little of bit off so we do have some testing that we have.
So after a period of time, we always want to test this custom channel. The custom channels can take a couple of hours to get right. Alright, so — and I always suggest doing an annotation when you change custom channels just because it’s a good idea to know when you did it so then you can go back and make sure you pick a date range since you made this custom changes.
So to leave an annotation you want to go to Admin and then View, now I’m actually already in the view so I don’t need to do it again and I’m sure you guys can see it, I can’t see it at the moment. Where did it go? Oh, there it is. I bet you guys were like pointing on the screen going, “There it is. There it is.”
Alright, so we’re going to do an Annotation. Alrighty, and we are going to do Added new Default Channel Grouping. Backed up old Channel Grouping as “Original Default Grouping.” Alrighty, just make it visible to everybody.
Now, we’re only changing it in this one view at this point in time but then we’re going to repeat that. So to save you guys the time, I’m not going to repeat those channels now. You don’t need to really see it twice but we would normally want to repeat it for each view and then we want to test. So we want to wait at least 48 hours but preferably even wait a week. But there are times when – if we have to do it within a certain period of time so if there’s a campaign coming up then we want to basically wait 48 hours and then check. And then if we start a new campaign, we want to check that it’s working straight after we started the new campaign as well.
So we’ve got, we’ve got a quick check here and then after a week we’ve got another more detailed check that we’re going to do as well because these custom channels is an area that can definitely get flaky because it was — it’s so hard to standardize actually, it’s very, very much needs to be fit in with the way you got your Analytics set up or what kind of traffic you’re using I should say and whether particularly if you have, if you’re using a marketing team or if you’re a marketing team and you’re or if you’re using a software that’s overriding some of the defaults then that can get really tricky.
Okay, so I’m not going to go through — yeah, okay, I’ll do the motions of going through it but obviously, we haven’t waited 48 hours. So to test that we want to open the Channels graph. So, oh did I do this already? I think I did that with another two last time. Alright, so let’s just do the motions so we’d like to go to the Channels graph which is in Acquisition –> All Traffic –> Channels.
We’re going to set the date range to include only dates since the change was made. Now, that doesn’t help in this case because we only just made it. So let’s just pretend that was the last week and we’ll pretend that it was since then and we want to check the Primary Dimension menu. Expand the Primary Dimension menu. Okay, yes, so we want to check whether we have the two different Channel Groupings in there which we should do. Alright, so first we — and we want to make sure the, like normally the Default Channel Grouping will always be ticked. Then we want to make sure that the new traffic channels are visible.
Now, they won’t be visible in this case because we haven’t had time go past so it won’t change any historical data. It will only start working from new data. We want to avoid things being listed as (other). So if you made a mistake then you’ll see a channel listed as (other). So if you see that it means you made a mistake and then you need to rectify it.
So you want to open up any listings that have (other) and try to work out what is going in there and then whatever is in there will indicate what you need to fix in the Custom channels and basically, we want to test each view that we’ve changed the Custom channels for.
So that’s a very quick check after you’ve or a couple of days after you’ve done it and then in about a or after about a week, we’ll do a more detailed check. Then like anybody having a set up that isn’t perfect because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Alright, well that’s the end of that particular lesson and the next thing that we are going to go through is — oh, so we’re up to testing now. So we’ve got three things test and then we are finished setting up.
So we’re going to be Testing the Remove Trailing Slashes Filter and the Remove All Parameters Filter. We’ll be Testing the Goals and later we’ll be Testing the Custom Channels.
Alrighty, well I hope this lesson has been helpful to you and like I said, these Custom channels can be a bit tricky so if you need any support with this just click on this Support button here and you can get through to a member of my team or to myself. Alright, have a good day!
This is actually the last video in the series, although in the course itself there are more videos which teach you how to test your filters, goals and channels after about a week or so of data flowing through them. It’s definitely a good idea to test your analytics if you’ve made sweeping changes to it, so do log into the course to get those additional videos, plus all the course notes.