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Properly Attributing Lead Sources with Multi-Channel Funnels

Published August 22, 2014
Where do your best leads come from?
That’s a critical question for every marketer, agency and business owner. And as the resident analytics guru, it usually falls to you to answer that question.
Unfortunately, it can be a frustratingly difficult one, particularly when our customers don’t convert on their first visit. For example, a new customer may have visited your site via organic search when he made a purchase. However, his first visit to your site came yesterday via a PPC ad. Reporting on only the last click means not reporting the correct story.
How can you properly credit the PPC ad as the source of this customer and not attribute him to organic search? In Google Analytics, the multi-channel funnel reports can be a big help.

source attribution of leads with google analytics multi-channel funnels

 

First, Set up Goals

To track where your best leads come from, you need to first set up goals that identify who your most valuable visitors are. Depending on your business, the appropriate goal could be filling out a contact form, opening a trial account, or making an initial purchase. See Translating Business Goals to Analytics Goals to Analytics Goals for some suggestions on how to pick goals and set them up in Google Analytics.

Once you have goals set up, conversions will start flowing into Google Analytics, and you can use several standard reports to see where they are coming from.

 

google analytics all traffic with goals

 

Above is the All Traffic report (Acquisition > All Traffic), sorted by goal completions. If you have multiple goals, you can select the goal that is displayed using the dropdown box labeled “Conversions.” Here, we have selected “New Account – Trial” as the goal, so the report shows where the visitors creating trial account came from.

In the leftmost column, you can see the source of the visit that produced the goal completions. For example, here we can see that direct visits - (direct) / (none) - produced 10 goal completions.

But, this doesn’t tell you where the lead originally came from. It’s only showing the source of the visit that produced the goal conversion. In this case, visitors who create trial accounts often do it on their second visit or later – which might be a direct or organic search visit. So, how can we tell where a visitor who converted originally came from? That’s where the Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels can help.

Multi-Channel Funnels

As the name implies, Multi-Channel Funnel reports enable us to see the multiple channels a visitor may have used to reach a website prior to completing a goal. The Assisted Conversions Report (Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions) is one of my favorites. There are two ways that I like to look at the data in this report.

First Interaction

The first is to see where converting leads are coming from. This is called “First Interaction.” Open the report, and select the goal you wish to analyze from the top. In this case, “New Account – Trial.”

 

google analytics selecting goal in multi-channel funnel report

 

Next, select the “First Interaction Analysis” tab in the report Explorer.

 

google analytics select first interaction in multi-channel funnel report

 

The report table now shows the channels where converting traffic came from, sorted by the source of the first visit to your website. In this example, you can see that Paid Search was the original source (first click) for 19 conversions.

 

google analytics first click conversions multi-channel funnel

 

The “Last Click or Direct Conversions” column shows how many conversions the channel contributed as the final visit where the goal completion occurred. In this case, 13 visits from “Paid Search” converted on that visit. So six (19 – 13) additional visits originally came from “Paid Search,” did not immediately convert, but came back to convert from another source at a later date.

This is really useful information. Why? Because it reveals more about the true value of Paid Search than just looking at where the converting visits came from. At Megalytic, we see this behavior all the time. A visitor arrives at our site via Paid Search. She checks out the features page, maybe views the pricing information and reads a blog article. But, she often doesn’t convert on that first visit. A few days later, she comes back directly (or via an organic search on “megalytic”) and creates an account.

If you have a lot of visitors who don’t convert on the first visit, this is an invaluable report for understanding how they originally found your website.

Assisted Conversions

This report can show you not only the source of the first interaction, but all the interaction sources leading up to the conversion. To see that view, select the “Assisting Interaction Analysis” tab in the report Explorer.

 

google analytics select assisting interaction analysis in multi-channel funnel report

 

Now, the first column in the report shows the “Assisted Conversions” – the number of visits from a source that preceded a conversion visit. In this case, for example, we can see that Paid Search assisted in six conversions.

 

google analytics assisted conversions multi-channel funnel report

 

The value of this report is in showing all channels playing a role in your conversions. For example, if you are wondering if people who visit from social media are converting, this report shows that the Social Network channel assisted in six conversions even though it was not the ultimate source of the conversion. By looking at the “Last Click or Direct Conversions” column, we can see that the Social Network channel also contributed six visits where a conversion occurred.

Sources of Last Click conversions occur are often referred to as “closers.” Sources of First Click conversions are your “lead generators.” Sources of Assisted conversions could be called “exposers” – at least that’s what Justin Cutroni calls them in this post. These are the sources that expose visitors to your brand effectively so that they eventually convert.

The last column of this report is a ratio – Assisted / Last Click or Direct conversions. In his post, Cutroni calls this the “Exposer to Closer” ratio. Channels that are your best closers have a low number here. In this example, Paid Search is coming in at 0.46, which indicates a pretty good closer. Organic Search is showing up at 1.33. This higher number indicates a better exposer than closer. Perhaps this is because many people find Megalytic organically through our blog, and then set up a trial account on some later visit.

A Few Caveats

The Multi-Channel Funnel Report gives us powerful insight, but it doesn’t tell the full story. If a visitor switched devices or browsers before converting, the data presented in this report will be skewed. For example, if John clicks on a Twitter ad for your website using his mobile phone, his first visit to your site should be attributed to Twitter. However, suppose he doesn’t convert using his phone. Instead, he gets in to work and does a search for your site from his desktop, and then converts.

In this case, the Multi-Channel Funnel Report will show the First Interaction for John’s conversion as coming from Organic Search, not Twitter (Social Network). Because Google Analytics uses cookies to link together the visits, and John’s visits came from different devices with different cookies, there is no way of linking these visits together.

The new Google Analytics User ID feature offers one potential way around this problem in cases where users log into your website or otherwise identify themselves. The User ID promises to enable us to “stitch together” visits from the same user across multiple devices.

Conclusion

Properly attributing lead sources to conversions is critical to understanding which components of our marketing programs are the most effective. Use the Multi-Channel Funnel report to understand the role each of your marketing channels plays in the conversion process. Focus not just on the sources for visits that convert, but take note of which traffic sources expose people to your site and assist in building awareness that eventually leads to conversion.

ALSO IN THIS BLOG

When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:

 

 

It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.