Explaining the Different Acquisition Channels in Google Analytics

Published 2019-12-02T06:00:13 by Yuza Taddeo

Google Analytics is a highly valuable tool that allows you to accurately track and measure the traffic to your website. When you use this tool, you will be able to receive user acquisition data and user behavior data. User acquisition data allows you to learn more about how users arrived at your website, while user behavior data provides you with a look at what users did once they were on your website. With this information, you can identify which pages are popular and which pages are unable to keep customers engaged.

The Google Analytics reports that you receive can oftentimes be difficult to understand given the extensive amount of data that you’re provided with. Before you read these reports, you should know more about the acquisition channels that the Google Analytics tool focuses on. The acquisition channels in Google Analytics are the sources of your traffic, which could be anything from organic search traffic to email traffic.

By knowing more about the various types of acquisition channels that are tracked by Google Analytics, you should find it easier to read the reports you’re given. The following provides a detailed guide to the different acquisition channels in Google Analytics and how you can improve the performance for each channel.

What Are Traffic Acquisition Channels?

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To best understand what traffic acquisition channels are, you should first know about the differences between channels and sources/mediums, the latter of which is also represented on Google Analytics reports. A source refers to the place that the user visited right before they entered your website, which could be anything from a search engine to another website. On the other hand, a medium refers to how the user arrived at the source, which occurs by clicking a link or ad in an email. When you see the source/medium designation in the Google Analytics report, this is a different kind of presentation for the exact same data that you receive from the traffic acquisition channels.

The Google Analytics acquisition channels will allow you to effectively determine what medium site visitors used to reach your website. An owner of a website might be wondering where their site traffic comes from in order to identify the quality of the traffic in question. Since the data you receive will be divided into separate channels, you can determine which channel performed the best and which ones under-performed. The channels that have the highest conversion rates should be where you focus your current marketing efforts in order to bolster site traffic.

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There are many different channels that you can receive traffic from, which include:

Organic Search

Organic search is a very important traffic acquisition channel that involves traffic that’s sent directly to your website from search engines like Bing and Google. A user will enter a keyword or phrase into the search bar and possibly find your website in the results from the search. Organic search traffic is considered to be among the best ways to obtain traffic since it doesn’t involve any sort of direct advertisements by you, which means that you don’t need to pay much money for this traffic. As long as your website is optimized for search engines, you should be able to bring in a significant amount of organic search traffic.


The direct acquisition channel is a simple acquisition channel that involves the user entering the URL of your website into the address bar of the browser that they’re using. Direct traffic can also be obtained via a bookmark of your website.


The social acquisition channel is any kind of traffic that you receive from social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Additional social media platforms that are covered with this acquisition channel include LinkedIn and Google+.


The referral channel involves a user clicking on a link for your website when they are on another website, which is considered to be a referral. A common type of referral is when a blog post of another company talks about your business and links to your website or an embedded video that links back to you website. If you’ve been focusing your marketing efforts on referral marketing, this is a useful metric to keep track of.


The email channel is a channel that identifies visits to your website from links in an email. If you have an email list of customers for your website that you send ads and updates to, any links that are contained within these emails could be selected by users.

The paid search acquisition channel is the opposite of organic search in that you pay for the ads that lead to this type of traffic. When you want to purchase paid search ads, you can do so through search engine ad networks like Bing Ads or Google AdWords. The ads that you purchase will appear on search results related to your business. Only when a user clicks on the ad will they be taken to your website.


Other advertising refers to traffic that’s generated from all additional types of paid advertising that are recognized by Google Analytics. The traffic that you gain in this channel should be a very small percentage of your overall site traffic.

How to Improve Performance with Acquisition Channels?

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Since there are seven different types of acquisition channels that are measured through Google Analytics, there are also many different ways to improve performance with acquisition channels. As touched upon previously, the data available through your Google Analytics report will allow you to properly identify which channels are performing the best. If 35 percent of your site traffic occurs via social traffic, this means that your marketing efforts on social media are very effective and that you should likely spend even more of your marketing budget on maximizing the performance in this acquisition channel.

However, you can also use this information to improve the performance of your website. Likely the best metrics to check for each traffic acquisition channel are the bounce rate, average session duration, and pages/session metrics. If you find that users who access your website from organic search are staying on the site for an average of three minutes, this means that your website is likely meeting their needs. You might also notice that the traffic from the social media channel has an average session duration of around 10 seconds, which means that the users from this channel find something wrong with your website.

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Maybe your advertisements on social media are promising a much different experience than the one users actually get when they enter your website. If your website doesn’t have a responsive design, there’s a good chance that most social media users who visit your website are doing so from a smartphone or tablet, which means that they are leaving when they notice the poorly-designed website. The information that you get alongside each traffic acquisition channel can be compared, which should help you improve your website performance.

You may have also noticed that organic search is leading to much better customer conversion rates than your paid search ads. If this is the case, check the sources on your Google Analytics report to identify which keywords are bringing in the most organic search traffic. It’s possible that your best-performing keywords aren’t being properly used in your paid search ads. In the event that users are entering your website from outside marketing only to leave before they have visited numerous pages or have engaged with your website, this is a sign that you need to improve either the performance or overall design of your website.

What is the Value of Acquisition Channels?

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The value of acquisition channels is being able to more accurately determine where you should place your marketing focus. The data that you receive in your Google Analytics report can be used to bring in more site traffic, increase customer conversion rates, and bolster revenues. Since acquisition channels divide bounce rate, average session duration, and other metrics into different traffic sources, you can view these metrics by each source. This report will let you know that your social media marketing isn’t bringing in much traffic or that users aren’t reaching your website through organic search, the latter of which means that you likely need to improve your search engine optimization efforts.

By analyzing this aspect of your website, you can improve your marketing efforts through each channel. All channels display the same types of data, which allows for direct comparisons between each source of traffic. Once you determine which channels are performing better than others, you can spend more of your time and marketing budget with these channels, which should start to bring in more traffic to your website and grow your customer base. Without this information, it may prove difficult for you to ascertain which of your marketing campaigns are successful and which ones are performing worse than you had anticipated.

Improving Your Website Performance

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Even if you are currently obtaining high amounts of site traffic from nearly all channels, this is only half of the equation for having a successful website. It’s also highly recommended that your website is well designed with stellar performance when users arrive on your site. If the marketing outside of your website is bringing in a significant amount of traffic, this might not amount to many sales if the rest of your website is a cluttered mess that takes too long to load.

While the visual design of your website is very important if you want site visitors to be engaged, it’s also essential that your website performs well, which is why you should consider completing some performance optimization. Many websites will conduct a round of optimization before their next sizable marketing campaign is set to commence.

To understand how important website performance is, pages that take less than two seconds to load have a bounce rate of just seven percent. On the other hand, pages that take around five seconds to fully load have a much higher bounce rate. Here at Bryt Designs, we can help you improve the performance of your website through strategic development and design. Contact us today if you want to learn more about the optimization services that we offer and how we can help you grow your business online.

Yuza Taddeo

Yuza Taddeo

Bryt Designs

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