Analytics Tip of the Week: Acquisition


By Jay Adamsson

Welcome to Week 3 of our series: Analytics Tip Of The Week.

Every Monday morning we’ll be providing a quick tip for your website Analytics. We’ll be presenting topics not just as a “how do I do this”, but “how can this help me”. Data alone may be interesting, but it’s only when we use the data that it becomes valuable.

Quite often, our tips will be Google Analytics related, but not always. Remember, there is a lot more to website analytics than just Google Analytics. We can’t forget other properties like your social media analytics, how best to implement Google Analytics, and perhaps the most important of all: reporting results in a way that makes sense and prompts continual improvement.

How do I get my traffic?

Without a doubt, one of the most viewed metrics in Analytics is the Acquisition section – where traffic to the site comes from.

But like most of Analytics, it helps to understand some items when viewing these reports.

Google Analytics Acquisition reportThe main reports in Acquisitions reveal what Channels traffic originates from. Channels try to collect your traffic into groups that make sense. While you can change the definitions, Google defines a number of default channels. The exact definitions are a bit more complex, but here is the list that Google Analytics provides, and essentially what they mean:

  • Organic Search: Coming from a search engine, such as Google or Bing.
  • Social: Traffic that comes from social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
  • Email: Clicks from an email message.
  • Affiliates: Some companies pay websites a commission when traffic is sent. If your site has this arrangement, the visitor will be noted in this category.
  • Referral: A click from another website not already covered above.
  • Paid Search: Traffic generated through Google Ads or similar online advertising.
  • Display: Clicks from display advertising, such as purchasing a banner ad on another website.
  • Direct: Traffic generate when someone visits your site by typing it directly into the browser or through a bookmark.
  • Other: All other traffic.

These categories are use two items called the Source and Medium to determine the Channel to which the visitor belongs (these will be covered in a later post). They are a great indication of where your traffic comes from, and can be used to evaluate whether your marketing efforts are being successful.

It is important to note that Channel tracking is not perfect. Although Google Analytics does its best to figure out where your visitors come from, it can’t always tell. Even though another website may have a link to yours, sometimes that information does not get passed through. It is possible to override this information. Quite often, visitors get lumped into Direct traffic when they belong elsewhere. And, unfortunately, it’s even possible to trick your website into reporting inaccurately.

But despite the challenges, this is one of the most useful reports you’ll find in google Analytics, especially if you track changes in your traffic patterns over time.