How to Create Custom Channels and Custom Channel Groupings in Analytics

Digital Marketing Strategy

As you probably already know, your Web traffic comes from a lot of different avenues — whether from organic search, social media, email marketing, affiliate partners, or paid search. Google Analytics parses these traffic “channels” with a set of default channel groupings.

Default channel groupings vs. custom channels

These default channel groupings — direct traffic, organic search, social, email, referral, paid search, and display — can effectively categorize the majority of your traffic data.

Default Channel Groups in Google Analytics

But what if you want to get even more granular with your Analytics data to precisely measure your inbound digital marketing campaigns and strategy? This can be done with custom channels and custom channel groupings.

Custom channels can be defined by source, medium, campaign values, and landing page URLs associated with a session, as well as a number of different AdWords parameters like keywords and domain placements.

If you’re using campaign values to define your custom channel, be sure all your campaign links are tagged up with the proper UTM tracking parameters. These parameters provide a virtually limitless ability to define new custom channels.

How to set up custom channels in Google Analytics

To add a new custom channel, click the Admin tab, toggle to the Analytics view you’d like to update, click Channel Settings, and select Channel Grouping.

Add Custom Channel Grouping in Analytics

Click the Default Channel Grouping link. Under Channel Definitions, select “Define a new channel.”

Define New Channel in Google Analytics

Example custom channels for recruitment and remarketing 

How granular can you make your new custom channels? Let’s say you’re a recruiter who’s driving traffic to a careers page through job postings on LinkedIn, Indeed, and Craigslist, and you want to know how your overall initiatives are working. You can create a custom dimension called “Recruitment” using the following parameters:

Custom Channel for Recruitment in Google Analytics

Define the rule by targeting only traffic going to your careers page from referral sources like Indeed, LinkedIn, etc. The example above uses regular expressions, which make filtering simpler and more effective:

indeed|craigslist|linkedin

Do you have traffic that appears as (Other) or (not set) in your Channels reports? Some of your traffic isn’t matching the parameters of any of the channels in your channel grouping.

Other Traffic Channel in Google Analytics

This happens a lot for remarketing services like AdRoll. If you’re doing a considerable amount of remarketing using both Google AdWords and AdRoll, creating a Remarketing channel is a great idea for eliminating the (Other) or (not set) traffic data and providing a window of insight into your overall remarketing initiatives.

Retargeting Marketing Custom Channel in Google Analytics

The above example will pair your AdRoll traffic with your AdWords remarketing campaign, depending of course on what you name the campaign.

Modifying your default channel groupings has its limitations. If you add a new custom channel to your default channel grouping, your historical data won’t retroactively update to reflect this change. For instance, your new Remarketing channel described above won’t clean up your historical (not set) data; it’ll only record Remarketing traffic from the time you created the channel. Therefore, it’s best to update your Default Channel Groupings immediately after creating a new Analytics view or account.

How to create a custom channel grouping

However, creating a new custom channel grouping will retroactively affect your Analytics data. Creating new custom channel groupings is simple and can easily include all default channels in addition to your new custom channels.
Click the + New Channel Grouping button, and name your new channel.

Default Channel Groups in Google Analytics

Add any of the default channels you like by selecting System Defined Channel and select your value.

Define Channel in Google Analytics

Then add your new custom channels and save the new channel grouping. It can take up to 24 hours for these new channel groupings to be visible in your reports, but afterwards, your historical data will be reflected in your new custom channels.

And as always, it’s best practice to create custom channels or groupings in your Test view first and monitor your setup for any errors. Once you’re positive all is working as planned, create the customization in your Master, or primary, filtered view.

Now you’re all set to take a deeper dive into all the specific channels that drive traffic to your website.

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