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How to Make the Most of Google Analytics Acquisition Reports

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Understanding how users have reached your website is fundamental to planning your marketing activity and increasing relevant traffic to your website. The place for all of this wonderful information is within the Acquisitions section in Google Analytics, broken down into manageable sections of information depending on which traffic you wish to review.

This post will explain the top level reports, which are then broken down in more detail with the other reports, but it's always best to understand the basics first.

Acquisition Overview

This is a summary report showing Acquisition, Behavior and Conversion (ABC) data for the top traffic sources as grouped into channels by Google Analytics:

Google Analytics Acquisition Overview

These ABC reports were introduced in 2013 as a way to summarize the important data about how users reached the website, key behavioral analysis, and important conversion metrics.

The default channel groupings were also introduced by Google Analytics in order to help group traffic sources together in a more comprehensive manner following the rise of social media and the many ways in which this is labeled with the standard source and medium tags.

For each traffic type this report shows you the total visits to your website and what number and percentage of these were new visits. This helps you understand where the majority of your traffic is coming from and whether the channel is attracting new visitors or repeat visits. Where (not set) is shown, this means the data is either from a date before July 25, 2013 when channels were introduced or Google Analytics could not specify which channel the data should be in, so has grouped it here instead.

The Behavior table breaks down the bounce rate for each channel, which can help you gauge how well users from each channel interact with the website through visiting more than one page. It also helps you identify traffic sources that have a high bounce rate, which can suggest that users are coming to the website but not finding it relevant and leaving without viewing more than one page.

Pages per visit and average visit duration also both help you identify whether users from each channel are well engaged or perhaps badly targeted.

Within each table you can click on the metric column heading to change the graph to show that metric instead. Additionally, with the Conversions table you can use the drop down in the top right to choose which metric you would like to show data for in this report.

Depending on which conversion type you choose to show, you can either see the data here for all goals, one specific goal, or ecommerce data. Reviewing the conversion rate and total conversions at channel level can be beneficial for spotting high or low performing channels at the top level, which you can then investigate in more detail through the other reports within this area.

Channels Report

This report is the detailed version of the previous Acquisition Overview report. It starts by showing you the ABC summary for each default channel. However, you have more flexibility in this report to choose how you break the data down and how it is displayed (i.e., which table/graph type).

There are also two additional ways to change the data set: Either by using the links above the graph to view different metrics for the channels, for Site Usage, Goals, Ecommerce. Or to break the channels down by other methods you can use the links above the table, for Source and Medium dimension breakdowns).

These options mean that this report is a good way to find exactly what works for you for a summary of traffic and performance before you get to analyzing the traffic sources individually. If you have a preferred view I recommend clicking the shortcut button at the top to save this report to your shortcuts, this allows you to reach it in only one click on future visits without having to navigate all the way through the reports and different view options each time you want to review the data.

All Traffic Report

Again, this report is similar to the previous one. On this occasion the data shown is broken down by Source / Medium initially, rather than channels. This is beneficial to those who manage their traffic sources with effective source and medium tags or those who do not wish to rely on Google Analytics' default channel groupings.

I like to use the Medium report and then click the pie chart option in order to see what percentage each major traffic source makes up for my website, but that's purely for identifying the major players before analyzing them in more depth through other reports. The pie chart can also be applied to conversions to see what percentage of conversions are made up from each traffic source, compare this against visits to see which slices lose out when it comes to conversions.

Google Analytics Medium Pie Chart

This concludes the top level reports under Acquisitions. The others relate to specific traffic types, broken down to allow you to review the data for the traffic source in a lot more detail.


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