How to Create Custom Channels in Google Analytics

Google Analytics does a lot of good things… great things really. However, we all have our gripes. Mine are fairly small, but one that comes to mind is how the tool defines a channel.

If you look in your channels report (under the acquisition heading in the left navigation) you will more than likely see the following pushing traffic to your site:

  • Direct
  • Organic Search
  • Social
  • Email
  • Referral
  • Paid Search
  • Display

You may also see Other Advertising and Affiliates, but that is only if you are participating in that form of traffic driving.

While this is great, many of us want more control over how these are categorized. If you have spent any amount of time within this report, you will notice that sometimes Social referrals get mixed in as direct, or there may be a big divide in your referral traffic but it is all clumped together.

Thankfully, there is a way to go about creating your own custom channels within Google Analytics. You can set all of the parameters for any channel and take back some of the control. Let’s explore how to incorporate custom channels inside Google Analytics.

Channel Groupings Location & Options

View your existing channels and create a custom channel of your own, by navigating to the Channel Settings menu within the admin panel. This menu is located within the view admin area, as channels are specific on the view level.

Once within that menu, select Channel Grouping and view your options (shown below). Here you can edit an existing channel group, or create your own custom channels.

custom channel creator admin google analytics

The Default Channel Group

You’ll notice there is the option to view and edit the Default Channel Grouping. This is how everything is set by Google, and it houses the way you currently see your channels within all reports.

Unless you want things to permanently change, do not edit the Default Channel Grouping. Any changes made to this group will be done to the core of your view. That is, if you change the social channel to include direct traffic, it will be that way until you change it back and that data can never be recovered again.

Creating Custom Channels

To avoid making changes to the default channels, create your own custom channels. Select New Channel Groupin on the channel grouping admin screen. From here you have full control over the names and definitions of your channels.

In the photo example below, you can see that I have set two channel definitions for my custom channel grouping. There is the Paid Social channel, which includes any campaign that is labeled as paid_facebook or paid_twitter. Then there is the Organic Social channel that includes campaigns that are unrelated to paid.

This is just one of the many things you could do in creating your own custom channels. The possibilities are truly endless and should be customized to your needs.

create custom channel google analytics

You can see from the image above all of the options you have available. If you have created a custom segment before, this is a similar process. Select your dimension, if you want the value to equal, contain, not contain, etc. and then populate the value field. From there you can add more arguments, either as an and or or statement. Lastly you select the color overlay that will display with each channel.

Viewing Custom Channels in a Report

Once you have your custom channels setup, you need a place to view them. The most logical place gives a great overview of your channels. Go into the Channels Overview report under the Acquisition header and select your custom channel from the primary dimension drop-down (shown below).

select custom channels within report google analytics

You can also utilize your custom channels as a dimension in custom reports. Lastly, one place you will want to use these that helps more than most is within the Multi-Channel Funnels Reports, including Assisted Conversions.

Summary of Custom Channels

Any way you find to utilize custom channels in your reporting workflow is a plus. They help to enhance the overall tracking and reporting experience and give you, the analyst control over the way your data is displayed.

While much of this work could be done outside of Google Analytics, it is helpful that Google built this into their analytics tool in order to make the ease of processing data in this fashion greater for everyone.

Have you used custom channels in your implementation? If so, what successes have you seen? Leave me a comment below.

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