If you’re responsible for generating traffic to your website, GA4’s Traffic Acquisition report should be your go-to report. Not only does it tell you the various ways people get to your site, but it can also help you determine the quality of the visitors from each traffic source. In this article, I’ll cover how to use the Google Analytics 4 Traffic Acquisition report to:
- Determine the various ways people are coming to your website
- Understand the quality of the visitors delivered by each traffic source
- Apply comparisons to your report
Determine the various ways people are coming to your website
The Google Analytics Traffic Acquisition report provides different ways of categorizing your traffic. Each method captures all your traffic, divides it into subsets, and then assigns a descriptive name to each subset.
The method seen when you first load the report is by Session default channel group, and its subsets include:
- Organic Search
- Organic Social
- Paid Search
- Paid Social
For a complete list of channels and their definitions, see [GA4] Default channel group.
Other methods of dividing your traffic into subsets can be found by clicking on “Session default channel group” in the table header of the report. The Session source / medium option divides your traffic into combinations of sources and mediums, where sources are websites or publishers like Google and Facebook and mediums are delivery methods like email and CPC. The following are common pairings:
- Google / Organic
- Bing / Organic
- Google / CPC
- LinkedIn / Referral
As you can see, this option shares descriptions also used in channel groups, such as ‘organic’ and ‘referral’, but they’re used in different ways. Whereas channel groups are meant to contain no more than around 20 possibilities, the number of source / medium combinations is unconstrained and can be quite high for some sites. This is because a description like ‘search’ is expressed by the actual publishers, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo – and ‘referral’ could potentially be expressed by hundreds of different referring sites.
Yet another method of categorizing your traffic is by Session campaign. This is the name of a promotion or marketing campaign that delivered someone to your site. Google Analytics isn’t able to determine campaign names on its own, so it relies on digital marketers to append this data to the end of the landing page URLs used in ads. When someone clicks through to the landing page URL, Google Analytics detects the campaign name. Below is an example from a Google help article:
From this, Google Analytics would report the Session campaign as summersale.
Contact us today for a discovery meeting on developing a custom SEO campaign for your business.
Selectable secondary dimensions
Session default channel group, Session source/medium, and Session campaign are primary dimensions in the Traffic Acquisition report. In addition to a primary dimension, you can also add a secondary dimension. This further breaks down your traffic by adding subsets to your subsets, as demonstrated in the image below where the Device category has been added as a second dimension.
There are many secondary dimensions to choose from. Here are some examples:
- city or county
- age or gender
- device or browser
You could even use any custom dimension or audience that you’ve created.
Understand the quality of the visitors delivered by each traffic source
In addition to gleaning the number of users and sessions from each traffic source, it’s also helpful to understand the quality of those visitors.
Within the Traffic Acquisition report, the term “engagement” is used to indicate that a session involved user interactions beyond a simple page view. Engagement represents someone demonstrating interest in your content. For example, they slowly scrolled down an article or they lingered on a product-detail page. An engaged session means you’ve attracted an interested user who’s more likely to do business with you compared to someone who lands on your site and then simply leaves.
Here are the metrics that reference “engagement”:
- Engaged sessions
- Average engagement time per session
- Engaged sessions per user
- Engagement rate
Let’s consider the scenario of a business trying different types of advertising. If their display ads have an engagement rate of 35% while their CPC ads have 55%, this would indicate the CPC ads deliver people who are more interested and therefore more likely to become customers.
Although these metrics are useful, ideally the business would have taken further steps to track the activities they’re most interested in – the ones that represent their goals. That’s what the Conversions and Total revenue metrics are for. Conversions are triggered by actions that are important to your business. For example, a lead-generation site may track form submissions as conversions. Likewise, an e-commerce website can track the revenue from purchases. Once implemented, these become the most important measurement of the quality of visitors from a traffic source.
Returning to the scenario of the business trying different types of advertising…
If they’re a lead-generation site, they can use the conversions metric to formulate their cost per lead. If their display campaign cost $1000 and generated 100 leads, its cost per lead was $10. If their CPC campaign cost $1000 and generated 150 leads, its cost per lead was $6.67. This would indicate they may want to allocate more budget to CPC as it’s more cost-effective.
If they’re an e-commerce website, and they’re tracking their e-commerce activity so their e-commerce reports are collecting data, the important metric is Total revenue. If their display campaign cost $1000 and generated $1200 in Total revenue, its return on investment (ROI) was 1.2. In other words, for every $1 spent on advertising, they earned back $1.2 in revenue. If their CPC campaign cost $1000 and generated $1500 in Total revenue, its return on investment (ROI) was 1.5. This would indicate they may want to allocate more budget to CPC as it provides better ROI.
Having the ability to identify the traffic sources that drive the highest quality visitors to your website means you can make informed decisions when creating your traffic-generating game plans.
Apply comparisons to your report
So far we’ve covered the main methods of deriving valuable insights from the Traffic Acquisition report, but sometimes you have questions that can’t be answered through those methods. Fortunately, there’s yet another way to slice and dice your data – which is to use comparisons.
The settings for comparisons can be accessed at the top of your report.
You create comparisons by defining subsets of your data using dimensions. When you apply two comparisons, you’ll see all the report data for each within the same report. As seen in the image below, you can compare all data generated by people located in the United States (blue) and all data generated by people located in Canada (orange).
The Traffic Acquisition report is a powerful tool for determining the various ways people are coming to your website and the quality of those visitors. Once you learn how to use this report and customize this report, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about your marketing strategy so you can improve your results.
I hope this article has been helpful. If you need help improving your organic search traffic, feel free to reach out to the SEO experts at Austin Bryant Consulting. If you need help with Google Analytics, feel free to reach out to the GA4 experts at UppedGame.