Understanding the Treemaps Report in Google Analytics

Published January 28, 2016
You have your go-to analytics reports – the ones you use on a regular basis to look at data by channel or to assess paid search engagement on your site. These reports are your tried and true, and the ones you constantly turn to for fresh insight. While it’s natural to have favorites, remember that Google Analytics often introduces new reports that give marketers additional ways to analyze website data.
Instead of ignoring them, take advantage!
The Treemap report is one such example, giving marketers a different way to compare volume and engagement by channel in Google Analytics. Through this report, you can identify performance holes in paid search campaigns, evaluate the benefit of links on other sites for driving traffic, and assess the effectiveness of social networks. Let’s take a closer look at how to read the Treemaps report, as well as how to apply the data to your online efforts.


Google Analytics Treemap for Paid Search


Understanding the Treemaps Report

First, if you’re unfamiliar, the term treemapping refers to a method of displaying hierarchical data by using nested rectangles. Treemaps let you visually identify trends and trouble spots across your account with speed and insight that is hard to get when looking at numbers alone.

To get to the main Treemaps report in Google Analytics, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Treemaps. When you first look at the report, you’ll see a colorful chart breaking down Sessions by channel.


Google Analytics Treemap Report


To read this report, note the “Primary metric” and “Secondary metric” dropdowns at the top.

The primary metric relates to volume of activity on the site (e.g., number of Sessions) and is represented by the size of the rectangle for each. Choices for primary metrics include the following:

  • Goal Completions
  • Goal Value
  • New Users
  • Sessions

The secondary metric relates to the quality of visits on the site and is represented by the color of each rectangle. The darker the green, the more positive the metric; the more red the rectangle, the more negative the metric. Choices for secondary metrics include the following:

  • % New Sessions
  • Avg. Session Duration
  • Bounce Rate
  • Goal Conversion Rate
  • Pages/Session
  • Filtering by Channel

    The Treemaps report doesn’t allow you to apply Segments, so what if you want to see data specifically for paid search? Thankfully, you can still easily drill down to data by channel.


    Within the chart, you can click the rectangle for any channel to see a further breakdown of data. For instance, upon clicking “Paid Search,” you’ll now see a chart showing the top keywords from PPC campaigns.


    Google Analytics Treemap for Paid Search


    We’ve changed the secondary metric to Goal Conversion Rate, so we can see which keywords were most likely to drive lead submissions on this retirement community’s site. As we analyze the data, we see that the highest volume keywords don’t always drive the most qualified traffic. While 55 plus retirement community drove 120 Sessions, it contributed to no conversions and therefore is red in the chart.

    However, +senior +apts drove only 45 Sessions yet shows green for driving conversions. Upon mousing over this keyword’s speech bubble, we see a 6.67% conversion rate. We can note this keyword is likely to drive conversions despite having fewer clicks than others above it. To see more data related specifically to AdWords performance, use the AdWords Treemaps report, which we’ll cover later in this article.

    In addition to paid search, you can see keywords for organic search by clicking through to that channel. However, note that the majority of organic keywords appear as (not provided), so you’ll get limited data.


    To break down performance by referring website, go to the Referrals channel from within the main Treemaps chart. You’ll then see a breakdown of the domains that drove traffic to your site.


    Treemap of Google Analytics Referrals


    In this example, we’ve chosen to look at New Users as the primary metric, allowing us to see data for unique individuals who are coming to the site for the first time. In addition, we’ve selected Average Session Duration as the secondary metric to measure engagement by how much time these users spent on the site.

    As with keywords, we see that the highest volume site referral isn’t the one that necessarily drives the highest quality traffic. shows, by far, the most New Users, however, the box is red, indicating a lower average time on site. Conversely, sites like and show lower volume but are green in the chart, indicating visitors who enter from these referrers spend a higher average time on site.

    You can click on any of these domains to drill further and uncover the actual URLs driving traffic to your site. For instance, if your site was mentioned in multiple articles on the Huffington Post, clicking on the URL will allow you to see which articles were most likely to get qualified visitors to your site by uncovering the specific page.


    Selecting the Social channel will break down traffic by social networks. The screenshot below shows Facebook, by far, drives the majority of New Users.


    Treemap of Social Referrals in Google Analytics


    However, we don’t want to look at traffic alone. The data shows that Pinterest and Twitter, while lower volume, drive more engaged traffic based on Pages/Session. In fact, Twitter, with relatively few visitors, shows as a dark green, indicating a higher average Pages/Session than the other networks in the chart. Based on this data, this brand would do well to share the site more on Twitter, as well as increasing efforts on Pinterest.

    AdWords Treemaps Report

    Marketers actively running ad campaigns (and who have linked their AdWords account to Analytics) will be interested in a Treemaps report specific to AdWords. This will allow you to further break down performance by campaigns, ad groups, and keywords within select ad groups.

    When you first look at the report, you’ll see your top campaigns represented on the chart. This report provides a few more metric options than the All Traffic Treemaps report, integrating AdWords-specific metrics.

    Primary metrics include the following:

    • Clicks
    • Impressions
    • Goal Completions
    • Goal Value
    • New Users
    • Sessions

    Secondary metrics include the following:

    • CPC (cost per click)
    • CTR (clickthrough rate)
    • % New Sessions
    • Avg. Session Duration
    • Bounce Rate
    • Pages/Session
    • Goal Conversion Rate

    In the example below, we see campaigns with a primary metric of Sessions and a secondary metric of Goal Conversion Rate. We can note that two campaigns labeled for NY Capital Region show as green, indicating a higher likelihood of conversion in this region.


    AdWords Campaigns as Treemap in Google Analytics


    We can also see that the highest volume campaign, FL - Search, shows a lower conversion rate. Based on this data, we may want to go back to that campaign and look for opportunities to improve conversion by testing new ads or focusing on different keywords.

    If you click a campaign in this report, you’ll see the chart update to show ad groups from that campaign. Here, we’ve updated the secondary metric to reflect CPC for each ad group. In this example, for a pest control company, we can compare which categories of pests tend to have more expensive keywords.


    Treemaps Drill Down to Ad Groups in Google Analytics


    Based on color, we can see the dark red on the Rodents ad group indicating that those keywords are the priciest, while various categories of ants appear to be the cheapest. Mousing over the speech bubbles will show us the CPCs for each. Based on this data, we can quickly identify higher volume but expensive ad groups to dive into, looking for opportunities to bring costs down.


    The Treemaps report offers you a way to quickly call out high performers and low performers across marketing channels. If you haven’t spent time in this report, take the time to evaluate the data here and look at your web traffic in a new way. You just may find new opportunities to improve your social, organic, and paid presence on the web.


    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.
    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.


    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.