Google Analytics: Channels Report

This post is part of our Google Analytics Reports series. Learn how to utilize and better understand the main reports available in Google Analytics. To be updated with each new report, join our mailing list today by filling out the form at the bottom right.

Understanding where your visitors are originating from is key to developing better website analysis and digital marketing. The first place within Google Analytics that give us a high-level idea is the Channels Report. This report showcases where traffic is coming from within high-level channels (i.e. organic search, social, etc.).

Here we will explore the channels report that is accessible within Google Analytics and see how to utilize this as a starting point for many other analyses.

What’s Included in Google Analytics’ Channels Report?

This report can sometimes also be referred to as the default channels report. That is due to the customization of Google Analytics, where you can create your own channels. For this post we will focus on the default channels and what they can do for you.

The default channels that Google Analytics sees your traffic coming in from include the following:

  • Direct
  • Referral
  • Organic Search
  • Paid Search
  • Display
  • Social
  • Affiliates
  • Email
  • Other Advertising

Some of those are probably very familiar to you and others may be complete mysteries. The truth is, you will probably never see certain ones on there (pending on your business model). I haven’t had any affiliate traffic, display or other advertising ever show within my report.

Difficulty to set up

Difficulty Meter: 1/5 (default)

This is a default report within Google Analytics. No work (outside of setting up your initial tracking code) is needed in order to get the channels report up and running.

Where it is located

The Channel Report is located under the Acquisition tab on the left hand navigation. It is under the sub-header of All Traffic and labeled Channels. Upon clicking on Channels you will be presented with the main report.

google analytics channels report location

Analysis to Complete

The channels report should be used on a consistent basis to understand from where your traffic is originating. This report can give you a good, high-level look at the referring types of traffic your site receives. For a deeper analysis you can:

1. Click into Channels for a Better Understanding

This may be common sense, but most every dimension you see within Google Analytics can be clicked upon, which brings up a new dimension a level deeper. For the channel report that comes into play in the form of seeing source/medium. If you click into your Referral Channel, you will see the actual source that sent that traffic (i.e. cnn.com). The Social Channel is a bit different in that clicking upon it will bring up the actual social network that referred traffic. While this is similar to the source, it is displayed differently.

channel report google analytics

2. Utilize as Secondary Dimensions

One way to take advantage of all that the channels report has to offer is to use the information outside of the actual report. I know this sounds strange, but utilizing channels as a secondary dimension within other reports is key to furthering your analysis.

As an example, let’s say you have an increase in traffic coming from California over the past week. If you navigate to California traffic only, within the geography reports, you can then pull down a secondary dimension of default channel grouping to see where that increase is originating from; social, organic search or others.

geography with channel secondary dimension google analytics

Benefit of the Channel Report

The channel report is best used when taking the dimensions that lay within and combining with other available data. While there is valuable data within this report, getting the best insights to push future action happen when multiple reports are combined.

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