What You Can Learn From Multi Channel Funnel Reports in Google Analytics

The functionality within Google Analytics to use pivot tables and data collected by the JavaScript code is massive! Often some of the more complex reports get overlooked in favour of the many other reports that Google Analytics has to offer.

So I want to talk about an often underutilised, but extremely useful area of GA; the Multi Channel Funnel reporting section – that area within Goals that’s made up of the 5 sections:

  • Overview
  • Assisted Conversions
  • Top Conversion Paths
  • Time Lag
  • Path Length

These reports are about as close as you’ll come to out of the box Google Analytics attribution – they deal only with users who have converted and they show you how your channels work together to create those conversions.

This is really important stuff! Attribution is a big buzz word at the moment as marketers start to understand that, whilst channel conversion rate is important, the ecosystem that you are creating with your marketing strategy is what leads to the conversions. Social tends to reinforce your branding, leading to higher conversion rates. Content and organic search tends to be great for exposure to new users, paid search sits towards the end of the funnel with a high conversion rate, etc. All of these individual channels play their part and by changing the ecosystem (reassigning resources) you change the influence that channels have on one another.

However, attribution modelling is not something that can be done lightly, working out the ins and outs of that ecosystem takes work and quite a bit of experience. So what I want to look at today is a some of the reports within Google Analytics that give you a feel for what you’re ecosystem looks like so that you can start using it within your budget allocations.

The set up

As with most things within Google Analytics, there is a bit of additional set up before you get the full value. Here are a few prerequisites that, even if you’re not thinking about your multi channel reporting just yet, you should address as you cannot backwards populate data – future you will thank present you that you did this.

Goals

An obvious one, but if you haven’t properly configured your goals then all of this falls apart, so decide what the purpose of your website is and then work out a way to measure it. Applying values to your goals is really important for this analysis as you can then apply actual values to your channels.

Sorting traffic into correct sources

Unfortunately, chances are that if you are unaware of why Google might not apply the correct traffic sources to sessions, you probably have an issue with your traffic source report. Here’s a great article that explains why your direct traffic will be miscategorised, it also goes through the principles of the miscategorisation of traffic. Other things to watch are:

  • Making sure that all traffic from social sites is attributed a social campaign medium – not referrals – and that all social links are properly tagged with UTMs
  • Your AdWords account is properly linked
  • All links in marketing emails are properly tagged with UTMs
  • Any affiliate links are properly tagged with UTMs

The next step from this is to organise your channels using GA channel groupings. This becomes more necessary if you run cross-channel marketing campaigns or multiple campaigns within a channel (AdWords for example). To start with though, ensuring that the default channels are accurate is sufficient.

Reporting Insights

Once your goals and sources are configured correctly, we can start the fun bit – pulling insights from the reports! For each of the 5 reports I’m going explain briefly what the data is saying and give an example of why this is important. Have a look at your version of these reports and see what new things you can learn about your customers!

Overview

This is telling us the overall conversions that you got throughout the date range… the overview!

You’ll notice that towards the top you can choose which of the conversions you’re looking at. This means if you have multiple goals set up (which you should!) then you can analyse them individually or collectively. You’ll also notice that you can apply conversion segments to the reports – this is an amazing useful function that works similarly to regular GA segments. Use these to compare between converting user groups, start by having a look at the default segments that GA gives and then have a go at creating your own based on what you know about your customers.

What I love about this tab is the multi-channel conversion visualiser. This tells us the direct relationship between multiple channels that have overlaps – how many users used all channels vs how many used just one or the other.

Multi Channel Reports Overview

This shows a quite a low overlap between channels. Most conversions happen within independent channels however Direct (beige) has the most relationship with organic and paid search.

Assisted Conversions

This report is my favourite within this section as it can give you some really useful immediate insight on the level to which a channel is converter or supporter. This report tells you how many sales and conversions each channel initiated, assisted and completed as well as the value of the conversions.

An assisted conversion is a conversion that’s happened with that channel playing a part, but not as the final click (so not getting the last click attribution). This is why the numbers won’t add up properly as conversions are duplicated. What it tells you is the conversions and value that channel has been involved in, uncovering a return on that channel that would otherwise be unclear.

The last click or direct conversion refers to the conversions and value that is attributed to that channel using the GA default last click attribution model – i.e. the number of conversions where that channel was the last click before the conversion is made.

The column that you should be paying attention to in this report however is the ratio between these two metrics – assisted conversions / last click or direct conversions. From this we can identify the level to which a channel is a converting channel or supporting channel, as a comparison with your other channels. A lower number means that the channel is a converter, a higher number means the channel is supportive.

Multi Channel Reports Assisted Conversion

In the above table, social and organic are our big converters. A lot of the other reports in this GA account will suggest that the budget should be pushed their way. However referral traffic assists on 20% of all assisted conversions, suggesting that it has quite an impact on the impact of the brand.

This is extremely useful for getting some insight on the part that your channels play in the user journey. Once we know the overall channel relationship, we can dive in further to understand the relationship between sources/campaigns within that channel, and the specific user segments, which they influence. This brings us to:

Top Conversion Paths

Our top conversion paths report shows us the sequences of channels that lead to conversions. This tends to be the most looked at report within the multi-channel reports, but it’s difficult to pull anything actionable out of it without some prior knowledge pulled from the Assisted Conversion report.

Multi Channel Reporting top conversion paths

Looking at this it’s fairly self-explanatory, but what we know from the assisted conversions is that referral traffic is an assist. We want to use this report to understand what other channels it assists – some paid search, some social, more on further pages – which we can then look much in further detail as to which referral sites are pushing those users and which paid/social campaigns are benefitting.

It’s really important to note that this report can be adjusted according to whatever source or medium you want to analyse! You can use source/medium as the boxes, AdWords campaigns or any channel grouping that you set up.

Time Lag Report

If you use display remarketing or automated emails then the time lag report can be used to great effect!

Multi Channel Report Time Lag

This tells you the period between the initial contact with the site and the conversion that’s made.

Be very careful when you use this report as time is a pretty inconsistent measurement when it comes to marketing – it depends much more on the users exposure to marketing – but what you can use this for is to influence your time based advertising to get an idea of when users react best to your follow up messaging, and when it’s probably time to give up on them!

Suddenly, with this report, what becomes extremely important is proper segmentation. Don’t just take a view of everyone who comes to your site (which actually you shouldn’t do with any report!) as there are many different types of people who come to your site – all with their own conversion lag time & paths. Look at people who come back via your display remarketing, or your email campaigns, or who keep coming back through social to get a better understanding of who needs what messaging when.

Path Length

Finally we come to path length. Again, segmentation is so important as a huge amount of context needs to be applied to each session. We can also use this report to influence our remarketing lists, governing bids based on the number of sessions. Or use it to compare between the conversion length between channels that cause a 1st interaction:

Multi Channel Conversion path length

Here’s an example that shows the difference between first exposure social and first exposure paid search. We can see that paid advertising has more users converting on multiple visits than social, what we can understand from this is that either our paid search messaging isn’t strong enough to cause conversions, or our focus needs to be to make sure that initial visits from paid search remain within our ecosystem so that they do actually come back and don’t disappear to a competitor.

Conclusion

Multi channel conversion reports are all about finding the relationship between channels so that you understand your users and your ecosystem better. The easy mistake to make with this section of GA is to make generalistic insights of your users as a whole – “it takes 3 days for users to convert” – without applying segments that actually identify your user acquisition channels that lead to 3 day lag and the channel that then cause that conversion.

The whole point of this is to be able to make more informed decisions about where to focus your marketing. Analytics uses last click by default that ignores the very good work that all the other previous channels do – use these reports to make sure you have a full picture before cutting channels and changing your ecosystem.

Andy Miller

About Andy Miller

Andy is a business owner & freelancer, specialising in SEO, content marketing, PPC and Digital Analytics. Andy loves content & data, especially what happens when you put them in a room together with a comfy bed.