Using Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels

I like to think of myself as a pretty savvy dude when it comes to web analytics, but every once in a while I miss a totally cool new feature that I should have been using all along. After a visit from our Google account team this week, I came across one of these features: Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels.

This feature was introduced back in August 2011, but somehow it went under my radar until just now. But now that I know about it, I can’t imagine how I lived without it. As the manager of an online marketing department, it’s essential for me to understand how our various marketing channels interact with each other. This report shows exactly that.

In a nutshell, multi-channel funnels show you which marketing channels a customer has interacted with in the 30 days before their purchase. These channels can include paid search, organic search, social media, email, direct traffic, and other channels. You can see which channels a customer came from, and how many of your various channels they interacted with before completing a conversion. This is really important because you can see how a possibly unprofitable PPC campaign is driving conversions via other channels, your social media efforts increasing your organic search conversions, or other similarly complex customer interactions.

Before you start using multi-channel funnels, you’ll need to set up conversion tracking in Google Analytics first. You should see the option for multi-channel funnels in your “Conversions” tab in the navigation menu once you get those enabled. Google automatically detects channels like organic search, direct traffic, and referrals. However, you may need to set up the tracking for AdWords (by linking your AdWords and Google Analytics accounts) and you will probably need to set up custom campaigns in order to track your email, social media, affiliate, and other non-search marketing efforts (check out Google’s guide to setting up custom campaigns for more on this). The more thorough you are in your setup, the more accurate these channel reports will be. So it’s well worth your time to ensure that gets set up correctly.

Once you complete your setup by enabling conversion tracking and defining your channels, you can start using some really cool reports. You not only get standard Google Analytics reporting that shows trend lines and basic stats for each channel, you can get some cool visualizations like this Venn diagram that shows the overlap between the paid search, organic search, direct traffic, and referral traffic channels:

Google Multi Channel Funnels Venn Diagram

You can also get some really great info from the Assisted Conversions report. This report shows channels that contributed to a conversion path, but were not the last channel touched before the conversion. This is great for seeing the added value that channels bring, even if you may not be seeing direct conversion effects in your other reporting.

In the “Top Conversion Paths” report, you can see the most common paths that users take to get to a conversion, along with how many channels they touched (or how many unique times they touched the same channel) to get there:

Multi Channel Funnels Top Conversion Paths

And finally, the Time Lag and Path Length reports show you how many days it took and how many path touches it took to complete the conversion. Zero days/one path will probably be your top result by far, but it’s interesting to see the curve. Some advertisers with low-price, impulse purchases might see their traffic weighted heavily toward 0 to 1 days and a single path, while big-ticket retailers or people collecting leads for expensive services might see a trend that points toward many days and paths as potential customers enthusiastically research their potential purchase.

As with many Google Analytics reports, the usefulness of multi-channel funnels varies with how correctly it is set up, and how robust your overall online marketing plan. But for advertisers that are very active on multiple channels, it can be an invaluable tool to track what return you are getting on your marketing spend.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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