AnalyticsHow to Make the Most of Google Analytics Acquisition Reports

How to Make the Most of Google Analytics Acquisition Reports

Understanding how users reach 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.

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

All Referrals Report

The All Referrals report contains information about the websites that sent traffic to your website. It is made up of all traffic where the Medium is Referral and breaks the data down by Source, which is the website domain.

This report is great for finding out which websites have valuable high traffic links to you, especially as the activity is automatically tracked by Google Analytics, although it can also be tagged with campaign URLs if you wish to define the information yourself.

For those websites that get a lot of traffic from the posts on Search Engine Watch, it will show up in the referrals report as ‘’. You can find out the exact pages sending you traffic and the data broken down for each of these by clicking the domain shown in the report. This takes you to the ‘Referral Path’ report.

For both Source and Referral Path you will be able to see all the common metrics including sessions, bounce rate and revenue. This information can help you analyze the success of different media partners, find out where you are being talked about, which social sites generate the most traffic, which external sites are most profitable and lots more.

A key mistake people make here is expecting to be able to find websites by their name rather than by their URL. Imagine you’re searching this list to see if you gained any traffic from BBC News, well, trying ‘BBC News’ into the filter box is not going to return anything. You will need to search for ‘bbc’ to find out which BBC websites sent traffic to your site, then imagining you found, click this and look for the News page, which is /news/.

To see referral source (domain) and the referral path alongside each other, rather than having to click each domain to analyze it separately, click Secondary Dimension and select Referral Path. This will break out the Source data for each page on the site that sent you traffic. You can then apply any filters to this, perhaps to find anything with the word ‘news’ in so you can alert your PR team to any new activity about your website, or whatever is relevant to you.


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