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3.4 Reporting tab: Acquisition reports

What are acquisition reports in Google Analytics?

The Audience reports tell you about your users, leaving the Acquisition reports to say where they’re coming from: search engines, social networks, website referrals and so on. This is invaluable for assessing which marketing channels are bringing the most visitors to your site. If you have Goals set up, the Acquisitions Overview report will even show you how well each channel drives conversions.

Analytics makes a distinction between source and medium. The medium is how traffic reaches your site: paid or unpaid search, referral from another site, an email campaign (when you explicitly identify this as the medium) or the user entering the URL (example:

The source is the specific point of origin. This could be the search engine used – such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc., or it might be the actual referring site, such as The source can also be one of your newsletters (identified for example as “spring_newsletter”) or the name of an AdWords campaign – although slightly confusingly, if users enter your URL or have it bookmarked then the source is given as “direct” while the medium is “none”. You can use Custom Campaigns (see below) to tag links with your own custom values for Campaign, Keyword, Source, and Medium.

Each report enables you to focus on a different primary dimension such as Campaign, and drill into the data – for example to evaluate each source/medium pair you used to deliver the campaign. In all the reports other than Overview, the Explorer tab lets you take different views of the data for the primary and secondary dimensions you’re using: Summary (the same metrics you see in the Overview report), Site Usage (behavior metrics), Goal and Ecommerce.

What is an overview report in Google Analytics?


By default, the Overview report shows you a summary of sessions by channel, the total number of sessions across the date range, and the total number of conversions across the date range, plus each channel’s relative performance on the Acquisition, Behavior and Conversion metrics.

Acquisition includes number of sessions, percentage of these that are new sessions, and New Users. Behavior includes bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration. Conversion shows number of transactions, revenue, Ecommerce Conversion Rate, Goal Conversion Rate, Goal Completions and Goal Value.

In conclusion, therefore, the Overview report gives you a quick indication of which channels account for the most users or new users, which channels acquire users who engage most with the site, and which channels acquire users who lead to the most conversions.


What is a channel report in GA?

Organic Search takes you to the Keywords report, Direct takes you to the top landing pages for direct visitors, Referral takes you to your top-referring websites, and Social takes you to your top-referring social networks. Paid Search will show you the paid keywords, search queries and campaigns from which traffic originated, and Email the email campaigns from which traffic originated.
This report is similar to the Overview, except it gives you a graph to go along with the Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions details – click any of the channels to see related standard reports with more details.


If you wish, you can alter the Default Channel Grouping, which is based on the most common sources of traffic, like Paid Search and Direct, but might not suit your specialist needs. If you want to label your traffic in other ways, you can create a new Channel Grouping (recommended) or even edit the Default Channel Grouping. For example, you might wish to separate your specific Brand Paid Search channels from Generic Paid Search, which might perform quite differently.

What is an all traffic report in Analytics?

This report lists your top traffic sources regardless of channel, ranked according to the number of visitors they sent to your site. So, for example number 1 might be a specific search engine, number 2 a referring website, number 3 a specific directory you advertise with, and so on.

Included in the Google Analytics traffic report:

  1. Source: as explained at the start of this section – for example “google” (the name of a search engine), “” (the name of a referring site), “spring_newsletter” (the name of one of your newsletters), and “direct” (if a user typed in your URL or had bookmarked your site).
  2. Medium: for example, “organic” (unpaid search), “cpc” (cost per click or paid search), “referral” or “none” (direct traffic has a medium of “none”).
  3. Keyword: The keywords that users searched for may be captured in the case of search engine referrals, whether organic or paid search, but note that when SSL search is employed (as in Google searches), Keyword will have the value “(not provided)”. See the section on the Keywords report
  4. Campaign: the name of the referring AdWords campaign or a custom campaign that you have created.
  5. Content: identifies a specific link or content item in a custom campaign. For example, if you have two call-to-action links within the same email message, you can use different Content values to differentiate them so that you can tell which version is most effective. You can use Custom Campaigns to tag links to use your own custom values for Campaign, Medium, Source, and Keyword.

Along with the search engines and campaigns (Sources) that are sending traffic, the All Traffic report lets you see a breakdown of Organic Search Traffic vs Paid Search Traffic (Traffic Type). Note that the latter includes AdWords traffic. Bear in mind that the raw number of users isn’t the whole story: look at the Site Usage figures and you might find that while organic search delivers many times more users, those users view only half as many pages and have twice the bounce rate. Look at the Ecommerce statistics, and you might find that users who arrive via paid search have a much higher completion rate and a higher average value per transaction, meaning that your investment in paid search is succeeding in bringing in customers who are after your products.

What is a referral in Analytics?

This report leaves out search engines and direct traffic, so it shows just the web domains (including social networks) that have referred traffic to your site. Click on any of the domains listed, and some will show you the specific pages that referred traffic. This is helpful if the referral source is a blog, for example, so you can see the specific posts that are sending visitors to your website.

In the past, self-referrals used to be a problem – that is, your own site showing up as the source of a visit. With Universal Analytics, this is now unlikely to occur.

What is a campaign report in GA?

This shows traffic from your AdWords or Custom campaigns: how many users each brings in, how many pages they view, how much they’re spending and so on.

If you find that a campaign is bringing in plenty of users, but a lot of them are leaving after viewing only one page (bouncing), then you might have a problem with the landing page associated with that campaign. If you’re running the same campaign through multiple sources (such as Yahoo or Bing in addition to Google), you can view the data by Campaign and add the secondary dimension Source so you can compare the results from the different sources side by side. The Campaigns report includes all traffic (from campaigns and from other sources), so you can assess whether each campaign is bringing in users with higher completion rates than users who reach your site by other means.

You might see a number of sessions where the campaign is listed as “(not set)”. The majority of these are sessions that have no campaign tagging. Many of these will be traffic from other (non-campaign) sources, but some may be from AdWords campaigns that have some error in the tagging. You can eliminate these statistics by using the Search option above the table: set the parameters to Exclude Campaign Exactly matching “(not set)”.

To use Custom Campaigns, you need to add parameters to your URLs that can identify each separate link in a specific campaign email, for example. Probably the easiest way to do this is to use Google’s URL builder online tool. Then, when users click one of the custom links, the unique parameters are sent to your Google Analytics account, so you can identify the exact links that are most effective.

What is a keyword report in GA?

The Keywords report breaks down the keywords that visitors used to find your site. In theory, this applies to both organic and paid searches. Unfortunately, when SSL is used – as it is in Google Search – the keyword is not exposed and Analytics records only “(not provided)”. So, in practice this report shows you mainly the paid search terms that triggered your ads.


You might find, however, that this isn’t very helpful if the vast majority of these are simply your own company name or your domain. If you prefer, you can click the Admin tab in your Analytics account and exclude these terms, or any others you like, as search terms. Any traffic that finds your site by searching an excluded term then isn’t included as search traffic in your Analytics reports but as direct traffic.

To see your organic search keywords from Google, you can try Google Webmaster Tools (look under Search Traffic > Search Queries) or third-party tools like HitTail. Of course, neither of these can give you the sort of detail that Analytics offers or correlate with conversions, but you’ll at least have an idea of the keywords people are using to find you. (See the Search Engine Optimization report, below.)

How to measure cost analysis via Google Analytics?

This report shows session, cost and revenue performance data for your paid advertising campaigns. It includes any non-Google marketing channels for which you upload cost data, and AdWords (labelled “google/cpc”) if you’ve linked your AdWords and Google Analytics accounts (see section 2.5 of the ‘Google Analytics for SEO, SEM, Website and CRO’ playbook), plus imported AdWords cost data to the View you’re using. The report compares the cost of each campaign with its associated revenue (from ecommerce and/or goal value) to calculate ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) and RPC (Revenue per Click).

Google has a detailed guide to how to import cost data and spells out its upload data use policy.

The Cost Analysis report is mainly concerned with your non-Google campaigns. The AdWords report shows you data about the visitors who click through your AdWords campaigns. You need to have linked your Google Analytics and AdWords accounts. If you have auto-tagging enabled, AdWords cost data will already be available in these reports by default.[1]

How to measure referrals from social media?

This report gives you information about referrals from social networks. The Overview gives you a summary of conversions linked to social networks and traffic from specific networks. The Social Value graph shows the number and monetary value of conversions resulting from social referrals and compares these with all conversions. When a session from a social referral results in a conversion immediately, this is labelled “Last Interaction Social Conversions” in the graph; if a referral from a social source does not immediately generate a conversion but the user returns later and converts, then the referral is included in “Assisted Social Conversions”.

You can drill down to see specifics in seven additional sub-reports:

  1. Network Referrals: this report shows you the top social networks driving visitors to your website, with Engagement metrics (pageviews, pages per session and average session duration) for traffic from each. This report is enhanced with off-site data for Google Analytics Social Data Hub partner networks; these include Blogger, Delicious, Digg, Meetup, Reddit and others.[2] Click on a partner network to see the URLs that were shared on that site. Change the dimension to Social Network and Action to see what actions people are taking on the network (for example, a “+1” or “comment” action).
  2. Data Hub Activity: this shows you how people are talking about and engaging with your site content on social networks. You can see the most recent URLs people shared, how and where they shared (via a “reshare” on Google+, for example), and what they said. Use the networks drop-down to select different Social Data Hub partner networks. Click Conversations to see posts and comments about your content, or click Events to see other social actions (like +1 clicks).
  3. Landing Pages: shows engagement metrics for each page on your site that received referred traffic. Click one of your site’s URLs in the table to see which social networks sent the most traffic to that specific page.
  4. Trackbacks: reveals which sites are linking to your content, and in which context. You can see each endorsing URL’s page title and publication date, plus the number of sessions that it sends to your site. Use the More drop-down in each row to view the originating site or your own page that was shared. Use the Filter Pages field to filter by your page URL.
  5. Conversions: reveals which social network traffic is leading to the most conversions and the greatest value of conversions on your website. Click “Assisted vs. Last Interaction Analysis” (just below the Explorer tab at the top of the report) to compare assists with immediate conversions. Note that you must define Goals and Goal values to see data in this report.
  6. Plugins: if you have Google “+1” and Facebook “Like” buttons on your site, the Plugins report will tell you which buttons are being clicked and for which content. Google +1 interactions are tracked automatically, but additional technical setup is required to track Facebook and other social plugins. You can do this either in your site code or using Google Tag Manager. Note that Google Webmaster Tools counts differently and updates less frequently, so the number of interactions it records might be different.
  7. Visitors Flow: this final report displays the path that visitors take through your website after coming to it from a social network. Mouse over a source on the chart (Google+, for example) and select “View only this segment” to focus on traffic from that source.

How to measure search engine optimization (SEO) via GA

The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) reports provide information about Google Web Search queries that have returned URL results from your site. To make these reports available, you need to add your site and verify it with Google Webmaster Tools, then configure SEO reporting within Google Analytics. The SEO reports use four specific metrics:

  • Impressions: the number of times any URL from your site appeared in search results viewed by a user, not including paid AdWords search impressions.
  • Clicks: the number of clicks on your website URLs from a Google Search results page, not including clicks on paid AdWords search results.
  • Average Position: the average ranking of your website URLs for the query or queries. Keep in mind that the most typical search queries will return only a single URL from your site. If a query returns more than one page, the average position is based on the most prominent URL in the search results when only a low number of URLs from your site are displayed.
  • Click-through Rate: clicks divided by Impressions, expressed as a percentage.
  • Queries: as we’ve noted, Webmaster Tools can discern some of the keywords that people use to find your site; the Queries report shows the Google search queries that generated the most impressions for your pages, along with the number of impressions and number of clicks, plus click-through rates (but not conversions) for each keyword. You can sort by any of these columns. There are three sub-reports:
  • Landing Pages: shows you the pages that receive the most impressions and clicks from search, along with their click-through rate and average position in search.
  • Geographical Summary: provides a general view of Impressions, Clicks and Click-through Rate by country. You can also select Google Property as a primary dimension to see a breakdown of Google search activity by Web search, Mobile search, Video search and Image search.


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