Identifying the Top Paths to Conversions Using Multi-Channel Funnels

Digital Marketing Strategy

If you’re actively engaged in online marketing, chances are you’re tracking goal conversions in Google Analytics. If not, you should be. Whether they’re e-commerce transactions, account sign-ups, or whitepaper downloads, these goal conversions can help determine which of your channel groupings — organic, paid, social, referral, and so on — offer healthy lead and revenue streams, and which take up time and expense without any return.

If you’re only looking at the last channel interaction before conversion, you’re missing out on how the rest of your channels influence and support the conversion process.

The Multi-Channel Funnels reports, including Top Conversion Paths and Assisted Conversions, provide some of the most strategic data available in Google Analytics. These reports help paint an expansive picture on user engagement and behavior leading up to conversion, and answer the following key questions to help you optimize your inbound marketing channels:

  • The Multi-Channel Funnels Conversions Report menu in Google Analytics.What channels helped support the conversion?
  • How many interactions did the user have with your traffic channels prior to completing a conversion?
  • How many days did it take a user to convert after first interacting with your channels?

Looking through these paths and reports can reveal recurring patterns and provide insights into how to most effectively optimize and invest in your various traffic channels.

For example, paid search may work best to fill gaps in your site’s non-branded organic keyword rankings, driving targeted traffic ready to convert. Social media may act as the first interaction for new users discovering your brand, and email campaigns may work as closers with special offers and promotions. These patterns can all be found in the Top Conversion Paths.

Top Conversion Paths

Too many times we like to look at each of our channels in a vacuum, as if they operate exclusively from one another. In reality, your channels work in harmony to present a compelling message that moves potential customers through the sales funnel toward conversion. Siloing your data by only attributing conversions to the last channel interaction will sell your overall digital strategy short.

From the first channel interaction to final goal completion, a path is created for each conversion recorded in Google Analytics.

Let’s say your site receives a large volume of conversions that attribute organic search as the last interaction. You’d think your SEO initiatives were killing it, while, say, your Facebook ad campaigns were yielding no results.

However, if you look at your Top Conversion Paths report, you’ll find that many users who initially clicked on a Facebook ad later came back and converted after conducting an organic search — likely using a branded search phrase.

An example of an MCF Channel Grouping Path in Google Analytics.

By only looking at the last channel interaction prior to conversion, you’d miss most of the steps in the path a user took toward converting; this strips away the supportive value each channel had in completing the conversion.

The Top Conversion Paths report provides strategic information on which channels most often participate in conversions, and where in the path they are most effective. Perhaps a certain referral source acts as a great opener and an AdWords landing page works well as a closer.

This report is also great to see if any channels work well in tandem. For example, if a paid search campaign leads users to sign up for your email list, and then those users click on a promotional link in the email and convert, these two channels may be fine-tuned to work in harmony.

Not all of your channels have to be effective conversion closers; some may perform better in a supportive role, which is where Assisted Conversions come in.

Assisted Conversions

What are Assisted Conversions and why are they imperative to monitor? Assisted Conversions are recorded every time a channel appears in the conversion path at any point prior to the last channel interaction before conversion. Instead of only giving credit to the last channel interaction, Assisted Conversions demonstrate the value of all the channels users may have encountered prior to conversion.

Review Assisted Conversions to understand the path to conversion.

This data is highly valuable, as certain channels may work more effectively building brand awareness than driving straight conversions. This is particularly true for paid social media campaigns and Google display campaigns. A user may passively come across your ad on social, read about your product or service, and then later go back to your site via a bookmark or an organic search and complete the conversion.

Without Assisted Conversions data, there’d be no way of knowing these channels played a key role in the conversion process.

Assisted Conversions / Direct Conversions Ratio

Understanding the ratio for Assisted / Last Click or Direct Conversions in Google Analytics.The ratio between Assisted Conversions and last interaction (direct) conversions is also recorded. This ratio is the total number of Assisted Conversions by a channel divided by the total number of last interaction/Direct Conversions a channel had. This ratio provides excellent insight into whether the channel works better as a supportive asset or a closing asset.

What do the ratio numbers mean? If the ratio is one, then the channel is equally likely to assist in a conversion as it is to complete a conversion. If the ratio is over one, the channel exists toward the top of the conversion path and is more likely to assist in a conversion than it is to be the final interaction. If the ratio is closer to zero, then it is more often the final interaction — the closer.

No ratio is preferable over another, unless you’re designing an ad campaign and landing page specifically for the purpose of generating conversions after one interaction.

This data can help inform how each channel is operating. For instance, whether changes need to be made to increase the number of last interaction conversions. Or if a channel works specifically as an assist, perhaps more compelling content needs to be added to help keep users in the conversion funnel.

Time Lag and Path Length Reports

The Time Lag and Path Length reports analyze the conversion paths themselves, rather than how each channel contributes to the paths. They provide excellent insight into how long it takes for users to finally convert.

Time Lag

The Time Lag report shows how many conversions resulted from conversion paths that took zero to over 12 days to complete. With this information, you can determine the length of your online sales or lead cycle and adjust your marketing campaigns to accommodate that cycle.

Examine the Time Lag Report in Google Analytics to determine length of lead cycle.

If you find that your sales cycle is rather long, make sure your messaging nurtures users along the cycle, rather than demanding a prompt action. If users tend to convert immediately, give your calls to action and general messaging an added sense of urgency.

Path Length

The Path Length report shows how many conversions resulted from conversion paths that contained anywhere from one to 12-plus channel interactions. Similar to Time Lag, a large number of interactions means a longer sales or lead cycle and the need to continuously engage users across all channels until they finally convert.

If you find that your Path Length is typically only one or two interactions, make sure your content and landing pages are compelling, grab the user immediately, and convince them to convert on the spot. If your cycle is short, that means you only have a few opportunities to convince a user to convert before they move on, so make your messaging count!

Review your Path Length Report for conversion and engagement opportunities.

A lot of work goes into every conversion, so make sure you’re monitoring and analyzing every step in the conversion path to ensure every channel is performing its role optimally and efficiently to yield the highest return on investment possible.

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