The #1 Google Analytics Setting Beginners Miss | Channel Groupings

The #1 Google Analytics Setting Beginners Miss | Channel Groupings

When you just start out with Google Analytics, you typically just follow the rules on how to set up a basic property, a view, and a couple tags. But what’s missing until you dig deeper into your business needs are a few extra setting configurations. 

Let’s get you ahead of the game before you miss out on some valuable data. 

The #1 setting that beginners overlook is setting up the default channels where Google categorizes users. 

What is the Channel Grouping settings?

Google Analytics automatically groups users into specific channels based on the website they come from. Though, not all websites are the same and some websites may need to be in a specific bucket, depending on your business. For instance, you’d like to create your own channel for Paid Social to separate it from automatically going to “Other Advertising” or “Referral.”

Refer to Google’s help article on default UTM parameters here

Make sure you use these default UTM parameters for the custom links depending on the source you’re linking from, so Google can accurately categorize the data. Sometimes, it’s automatic, but when you create custom UTM parameters, you’ll need to specify the utm_medium parameter or whichever custom settings you set in “Channel Grouping” for it to work. 

Why would Channel Groupings be so important? 

Google Analytics is the most valuable in telling you where your visitors are coming from. It helps you understand which types of websites bring you the most traffic and the most sales.

It’s all dependent on custom UTM parameters you set for each external link (on other websites). If you’re creating a custom link, you must want to see the results of that link in the right channel. Without the right UTM parameters set, a website’s traffic might be hiding in the corner. And by “corner,” I mean somewhere in the “Referral” bucket, the catch-all for websites not automatically categorized. Or worse, in the wrong bucket.  

How would you ever know until you finally go digging? By then, it’s too late.

It’s important to set up your Channel Grouping settings early. Once the data is in Google Analytics, there’s no turning back, only forward. 

How to Set Up Your Custom Channel Grouping

Head over to your Admin settings > Target View > Channel Settings 

Once you become familiar with the default medium values, create your own buckets where needed based on different values. You can filter the channel based on source, medium, or pretty much any dimension Google offers.Heck, you can even be more specific by doing multiple dimensions at once. Learn what a dimension is here.

Now here’s the important part.

The channel settings is processed in order, hence the numbered list of channels. 

If you think a source can overlap another channel, make sure the new channel is higher than the original. 

Going back to the Paid Social vs Social example, Paid Social should be higher than Social. One option on how to differentiate the Paid Social channel is to specify a different medium other than what’s listed in “Other Advertising” and “Social.” Let’s set the medium to “cpm.” 


Now you’re ready to just sit back and see how the traffic gets distributed the right away, automatically.

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