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Google Analytics channels: Let's make them great again

Special blog post for MeasureCamp Paris 2017

That's a few month now that I play with Google Analytics Channels and there are a ton of things to accomplish with them. 

In this article, I provide you with my channel grouping prototype that you will be able to download and customize for your own websites and needs.

So what are these Google Analytics channels?

Channels are custom groups of traffic sources that you can configure and rename the way you want in your Google Analytics views.

Unlike the popular "source / medium" dimension, the default channel grouping provided out of the box with any Google Analytics account is quite deconcerting:

Data from Google Merchandise Store (Google Analytics Demo)
to Find the report in your Google Analytics:

-> Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels

I really get why no one (or only a few) uses these default channels

Let's make the Google Analytics channels great again!

Requirements before you start :

  • You will need some knowledge on Regular Expressions, (if you don't know REGEX yet, follow that link, and print that fantastic Analytics REGEX cheat cheat),
  • You will also need to have your website tagged with Google Analytics (including a proper setup of utm_source),
  • You will need to fully customize them to your site, a little yet simple setup is required.

No danger

Adding these channels to your Google Analytics views won't break your configuration, as long as you keep the default channels from Google intact. Channel Prototype

Yes you just have to click the link, this is as easy as that.

Let's Start With SEO

I have been a SEO consultant for quite some time, and lived the good old days when we were getting the keyword info in Google Analytics.

At the beginning of the (not provided) era, I was extrapolating the share of branded Vs non branded SEO traffic with some assumed accuracy, but you might all already know that this calculation is not anymore possible when we reach up to 95% of (not provided) for our keyword field.

Let's accept the fact that (Google is now making you pay Adwords clics to know how keywords convert on your site) and find something else...

Divide and Conquer SEOs

In SEO, you always have had a keyword, but you also have the indexed page that generated the visit. So instead of approaching the Branded Vs Non Branded distinction.

I divide my SEO traffic in accordance to their landing page group or thematic. I have multiple SEO cchannels that provide me with the repartition of SEO Traffic divided the way I want.

Example on my own site where I get the SEO sessions based on the content sections.


The true performance of content marketing

Or how many sales the visits to my blog contributed to my Ecommerce site ?

But the other discovery is... As channels are really considered like traffic sources, you can get the full suite of attribution reports with your channels inside.

#NoDebatesOnAttributionModelsPlease yet.

Here is a glimpse at how it looks on the assisted conversion report.


Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions

Only looking at SEO channels for my website.

Do you realize that we have the contribution of SEO segments (AKA group of keywords) to the conversions on my site ?


Me when I realized that the first time

I had my SEO Conversion data back.

(not provided) = not anymore


Configuring your SEO Channels

The SEO part is organised into 5 groups to provide your with an example, and you are free to adapt them to your needs and to the reality of your website :

  • SEO - Home
  • SEO - Blog
  • SEO - Category Pages
  • SEO - Product Pages
  • SEO - Other Pages

Remember to properly configure the landing page URLs for each and every group by including your own REGEXes ^^

Big thanks to Arthur Aouillé, who actually made me realize that we could also apply this feature to Ecommerce websites that operate blogs and want to measure the true impact of their content marketing effort.

Yes, you can see the SEO visits to your blog, ok that's simple, but with channels, you can also know how much money they have contributed to your ecommerce site.

Starting the configuration of the SEO channels.

Create one "SEO - [Group of content]" by entering the associated urls as Regexes

Feel free to create even more Content Groups

Now Adwords = google / cpc ?

What's inside the Adwords box ?

  • Branded keywords ?
  • Non Branded keywords ?
  • Google Shopping Feeds ?
  • Display ads ?
  • Retargeting ?

Granularity on the Google Ad Products

No need to discuss here if it is necessary to purchase your brand on Adwords as it is commonly accepted. (Gildas or Benjamin could talk about it during hours, as long as you provide the beers).

However what seems less obvious, is to properly measure these two different types of paid search traffic as well as segmenting the full suite of different Google ad products.

As a webanalyst, you will have to pay your SEA Consultant a lot of beers (again) to understand how you can match their existing Neo's Campaign Matrix Naming Scheme.

Google Adwords Channel configuration

The easiest way to match all Google Ad products will be to focus on how your SEA Specialist organizes his campaign naming. They often use prefixes in their campaign names.

Does this ad contains my brand ?

I warned you earlier, this is not plug and play.

You will have to drink beers with your new SEA friend.

Retargeters and Emails

You start understanding the process right ?

You keep going and you match each and every retargeter, same thing with emails all emails are not created equal right ?

Do you consider abandonned cart emails the same way as the weekly newsletter ? I hope not.

See our channel configuration is starting to take shape

Yes I add utm_source to email signatures

100% of emails that leave company get their utm_source

Social networks

You already know that there are different social networks, right? but I also want to differenciate the work of community managers from the natural buzz, as well as having separate stats on all the sponsored posts or tweets that cost me money.

So you will need 3 kinds of channels for each social network:

  • Sponsored
  • CM (for community managers)
  • Buzz for all the things that happen naturally

No I don't tag the social buttons with utm_source, but you could if you want to work on week-end.

The Social Network config

I like granularity in my social network traffic

If you need to add another social network,

You have the template


After Chess, my favorite and first strategy game was C&C Red Alert, and as I was writing this long article, I wondered if I could add a little something that would make this Google Analytics Channel prototype GREATER than GREAT, again, just because I can, you know.

No need to comment that.

A little bit on search engines

It's a shame that Google Analytics still not recognizes other small search engines such as or our french heroes or and that we have to still manually integrate them by hand. Still no share functionnality :( 

If by any chance, I forgot a search engines specific to your region, feel free to drop me a message or comment and I will update the channels right away^^.

The Last Two Channels

The most important is that the last group "Referral Websites" always stays at the end of your config!

Don't forget to Save too

You've completed this tutorial :) Thank you for your patience.

I hope you will enjoy this and that it will improve your understanding on your traffic sources.

Yes I know I did not included the affiliate networks, but it would have been even longer.

Wanna see how the custom channels looks on my own Google Analytics ?

Of course I won't show you how I implement them for my clients,

But for my own website...

Feature Requests for the Google Analytics Team

Dear Google Analytics Team, 

Maybe you noticed that I tried my best to make your custom channel grouping great again.

And as I bet you guys want to actually make them Great Again too, just because you can, you know...

Here are the 3 suggestions of features I have:

  • Make any custom channels available in the custom reports section in Google Analytics
  • Make any custom channels available in Google Data Studio
  • Finally, start recognizing automatically all Search Engines in GA, or give us at least the ability to import-export them between GA properties. 

Kind regards from The Measure Camp Paris,




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