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Tracking paid social activity using channel groupings

Written by Charlie Carter | 01-Aug-2017 09:14:29

What are default channel groupings?

Channel groupings are rule-based groupings of the traffic to your site. By default, there are eight predefined channels set up in GA, as outlined below:

Paid social is a key player missing from this list. However, creating and modifying these default channel groupings is simple.

How to set up a new channel grouping

Tracking your paid social activity using channel groupings can be summarised as follows:

Admin > View > Channel Settings > Channel Grouping > Default Channel Grouping > Define a new channel

In order to track paid social as a separate channel, you will need to set up a new grouping alongside the existing definitions. Here you can set up your own set of channel groupings, or alter the default settings:

You will need to give your new channel a name (i.e. Paid Social) and define the rules that will ensure the right traffic is grouped into this channel. To make defining your channels easier, use consistent naming conventions in your social UTM parameters. For example: utm_medium=paid+social for links in paid posts and utm_medium=organic+social for organic posts. This can then feed into your channel grouping set up:

For a fool-proof set-up, you can also update the predefined social channel grouping to only include organic social traffic:

When creating your own channel groupings or modifying the existing defaults, we recommend making your changes in a test view. This way, you can play about with the data until you are happy with it before setting these groupings live on the main reporting view.

Alternatively, you can copy the default channel grouping set up via the action drop-down menu under Admin > View > Channel Settings > Channel Grouping. This way you make your modifications easily without losing the original set up.

What’s the difference between default and custom channel groupings?

There are some instances where it may be more suitable to set up custom channel groupings. You might want to set these up if you:


  • Don’t have edit access in GA
  • Don’t need to access them via the API
  • Want to apply them to historical data
  • Don’t want to permanently change the data
  • Want to see them in both the Acquisition and Multi-Channel Funnel reports
  • Don’t want other users to see your set-up


How to set up custom channel groupings

There are two ways of setting up your custom channel groupings.

Option 1: Admin > View > Custom Channel Groupings > New Channel Grouping

Here you will be greeted with a blank template. This option is useful if you just want to look at your new channel groupings in isolation, or alternatively, you can manually add in each default grouping:

Option 2: Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions

Here you can select the ‘Copy of MCF Channel Grouping Template’ under the Channel Groupings primary dimension drop down:

This option allows you to start with the default channel groupings pre-filled and just edit and rearrange them to suit your needs:

This has been a quick introduction on how to utilise and modify your channel grouping set-up. Although the focus has been on paid social, this set up can be replicated to suit your reporting needs, for example, differentiating between brand and generic PPC traffic.