Using the Treemaps Report for Better Google Analytics Reporting

Published July 24, 2016
We all know a picture is worth a thousand words, but in some cases it’s worth a thousand metrics too. You can study numbers. Evaluate increases, decreases, rates, ratios and proportions. But sometimes, they don’t paint the whole picture. That’s why it may take an actual image to get the message.
As you’ve looked through the reports in Google Analytics, you may have come across the Treemaps report, buried under Acquisition > All Traffic. While some reports are fairly self-explanatory, it may be more difficult to figure out how to apply this data to your reporting. However, knowing how this report works allows you to visually analyze performance in a way other sections of analytics don’t.
First, it’s important to understand how Treemaps use colored rectangles to represent data. The larger the rectangle, the larger the data set for a primary metric (e.g., volume of Sessions). Colors indicate a high or low number within a data set for a secondary metric (e.g., Pages/Session). If you need a refresher on what’s what in Treemaps, we’ve covered the basics of Understanding the Treemaps Report in a previous post.
In this post, we'll delve further into how you can apply insights from this report to improve your analysis of a website’s performance.



Pinpoint Weak Channels

The graphic nature of Treemaps can help you quickly identify channels that are driving low and/or poor quality traffic. From this you can determine where you may need to focus more efforts while also identifying underutilized channels.

In this example, we’re looking at data by channel (the default view for this report), choosing New Users as the primary dimension and Goal Conversion Rate as the secondary dimension. This particular configuration will show us which channels are most likely to drive new, converting visitors to the site.


Treemap of Channel Conversions


Now, we can make a few observations:

  • Organic Search, Paid Search, and Referral channels are all green, showing that these have the best conversion rates.
  • Referral is the darkest green, indicating that this channel drives the highest conversion rate, despite traffic volume being on the lower end.
  • Organic Search by far drives the most traffic of any channel, being the largest rectangle.
  • Social drives both the lowest volume and the lowest conversion rate.

You can mouse over the speech bubble in any rectangle to see more specific numbers. For instance, here we can see that Social has a conversion rate of just 0.26%.


Treemap of Social Conversions


Comparatively, Referral traffic has a conversion rate as high as 1.49%. From this, we can infer that Referral traffic has been converting most successfully while Social is the least likely channel to drive a conversion.

In reporting performance by channel, we could recommend that this brand spend some additional time strategizing how to drive more traffic from social media. This can include changing their messaging and or cultivating more options for a socially engaged audience to convert, such as a newsletter signup.

Assessing Performance by Referral Site

You can click any channel to see a more specific breakdown of performance by category. When you select Referral, you’ll see the sites that referred traffic to the site listed in the report. You can now easily pinpoint which ones drove conversions, as well as which ones drove lower quality traffic.

Here, we see referrals for a retirement community. Interestingly, actually shows the highest conversion rate (yes, the Yellow Pages are alive and well online)., a natural fit for the target demographic, also shows as green. This information can validate paid listing decisions. Finally, shows as a converting referral, although these visits are likely miscategorized organic search visits.


Treemap of Google Analytics Referrals


Also, several of the sites in red are actually spam referrals:,,,, and In this case, the Treemap report helps to quickly flag these false referrals so you can segment these out of your reports. See more details on identifying and removing these metrics in our article How to Filter Out Fake Referrals.

Evaluating Readership from Social Traffic

By clicking the Social channel, you’ll see performance broken down by each social network that drove traffic to the site. Here, we’re looking at social media performance for Megalytic, where people are often apt to read blog posts. By looking at Sessions as the primary dimension, we can evaluate total traffic. By choosing Avg. Session Duration as the secondary dimension, we can gauge engagement levels based on the time the average user dedicated to the post.


Social Media Referrals Treemap


From this we can see that Facebook is not only the largest contributor of traffic from social media but also the network from which people tend to spend the most time reading articles. While LinkedIn also drives a decent volume of traffic, the people referred from that platform are spending less time on the site, on average.

We also notice that Quora stands out as a referrer of engaged visits. If you’re unfamiliar with Quora, this site allows users to pose public questions that anyone can answer. By establishing expertise with analytics-related questions, Megalytic has links from the site within the context of relevant discussions.

Assessing AdWords Performance

In addition to the main Google Analytics Treemaps report, you can access an additional Treemaps report specific to AdWords under Acquisition > AdWords > Treemaps. As long as you’ve linked an active AdWords account to your Google Analytics account, you’ll see data here to help evaluate AdWords campaign metrics. You can pinpoint campaigns that you should prioritize working on to improve conversion performance.

For instance, here we see performance by campaign for a pest control company serving multiple regions of the USA. Looking at New Users by Goal Conversion Rate, we can immediately see that the “FL-Search” campaign drives the highest traffic volume but has a lower conversion rate than campaigns for other areas, such as the “Northeast-NY Capital Region” or “Northeast-MA” campaigns.


AdWords Campaign Treemap


Based on this data, we should focus on the Florida campaign for conversion optimization, looking at keywords, bids, ad copy, and the landing pages linked from the ads. For more on evaluating the efficacy of campaign set up, see our article on Tips for Structuring Search Campaigns in AdWords.


In this report, we’ve covered some practical applications of the Treemaps report to help improve your analysis of online performance data. This report allows you to quickly flag high and low performers among channels, while delving into specific metrics for site referrals, social media, and AdWords campaigns.

If you haven’t looked at the Treemaps report yet, take some time to review it in your Google Analytics account. You may find it will identify both opportunities and problems that may not have been seen elsewhere. The best way to improve your web marketing approach is to use all of the resources at your disposal. With this report, you have a better opportunity to see the big picture.


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.