Understanding the Various Channels Used In Google Analytics

Understanding google analytics Singapore

Digital marketing is a crucial aspect of marketing your brand in the modern era, and the best one Google analytics is one of the tools to help you understand the traffic to your website. This is represented in the form of acquisition reports.

Introduction to Terms Used In Google Analytics

However, to understand the use of Google Analytics, you need to grasp how the tool defines the various channels. Without proper understanding, you will not know how the avulsion reports mean for your business.


‘Source’ in Google Analytics refers to the origin of your traffic, and it includes traffic sources that are tracked via utm_source parameter. For example, you will find a source like Google / organic. This means that Google is the source of the traffic on your site.

However, the source names in Google Analytics are case-sensitive. That is, Google Analytics treats GOOGLE, google, and Google as separate traffic sources.


You might see it named as traffic medium, and it denotes the category of the traffic source as defined by Google. The reports also include the traffic medium tracked through the utm_medium parameter.

For example, when you see bing / cpc, ‘cpc’ is the medium. More so like in the source, the medium names in Google Analytics are case sensitive. That is, email, EMAIL, and Email are treated differently.


This refers to the name of your Google Ads campaign or a custom campaign. In this regard, a custom campaign is the marketing campaign that tags ‘utm_campaign’ tracking parameter. 


You might also see Google analytics list Channel as Marketing Channel, and it refers to a group of several traffic sources with the same medium. For instance, organic search is a marketing channel and can be made up of various traffic sources with the same medium named organic such as

  • Bing (as in bing/organic)
  • Yahoo (as in yahoo/organic)
  • Google (as in google/organic)
  • Aol (as in aol/organic)

You can review your channels in Google Analytics by going to

  • Acquisition > Overview report
  • Acquisition > All traffic > Channels report
  • Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels > Overview report
  • Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions report
  • Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels > Top Conversions Paths report

With that said, Google Analytics offers two types of channels, default-marketing channels otherwise known as default channels, and custom marketing channels also known as custom channels.

Default Marketing Channels

These channels are system defined in Google Analytics, and they include organic search, display, paid search, direct, display, email, referral, and social among others.

For organic search, the channel can be made up of unlimited traffic sources as long as the medium is defined as organic. For paid search, the medium must be ‘CPC,’ ‘ppc,’ ‘paid search,’ and ‘Ad Distribution Network’ if it does not match the content.’

Google Analytics allows you the opportunity to edit the ‘default marketing channel.’ You can do this in easy steps

  • Navigate to the ‘Admin’ section of Google Analytics main view
  • In the ‘View’ section, click on Channel Settings the n channel Grouping
  • Click on the default channel grouping’ link
  • Click on the pencil icons on the channels to change how Google Analytics displays the traffic

When it comes to editing the default marketing channels, you ought to be careful with the use of the ‘AND’ button. With rising competition, the wrong use of the button can skew your data, and thus you will not have a proper understanding of your traffic.

Moreover, when you click on the ‘Default Channel Grouping,’ you will see a warning, which stipulates that changing the definition in any of the default marketing channels will permanently change the classification of the traffic.

While this will not affect any historical data, you need to be certain of what you are doing.

How to Create a New Marketing Channel

These are user-defined in you can create them in easy steps in Google Analytics

  • Navigate to the Admin section of Google Analytics’ main view
  • Click on Channel Settings > under the view section
  • Click on the ‘Default Channel Grouping’ link
  • Click on ‘Define’ a new channel’ button
  • Give a name to your new marketing channel and define the channel’s rules
  • Click on the ‘Done’ and ‘Save’

Generic Paid Search Channel

This channel records the traffic coming from generic keywords to your site from search engines. By analysing this data from Google Analytics, you will come to see the value of non-branded keywords in regards to your website traffic.

Branded Paid Search Channel

This channel records the traffic from your branded keywords, which are the search terms that include your brand name. This channel will give you a better perspective on the role branded keywords play in your traffic to your website from search engines.

Unknown Paid Search Channel

This channel records the traffic coming from the ‘not provided keywords’ to your website. While you might want to pass it up, the channel will give you a better insight into the importance of the unknown paid search terms in driving traffic to your website from search engines.

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Google analytics in Singapore

Creating Generic, Branded, and Unknown Paid Search Channels

Follow these steps to create these channels

  • Navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source / Medium report in the main view
  • Click on the ‘Keyword’ tab
  • Filter the branded keywords including the misspelled terms, and download the data into an Excel worksheet
  • Go back to the ‘Admin’ section, and under the ‘View’ section, click on Channel settings > Manage Brand Terms
  • Copy-paste your list of branded keywords from the Excel Worksheet into the ‘Enter Brand Terms’ textbox
  • Click on ‘Add Brand Terms’ button, and the terms will appear under the ‘Active brand terms’ column
  • Scrutinise the ‘Suggested brand terms’ box and if you find a branded keyword that is missing from your list, add it to the ‘Active brand terms’ column
  • Click on the ‘Save’ button, and on the dialog box that pops up, click ‘Yes, Set Up Now’ and on the popup box, that follows this action, click ‘Dismiss.’

At this point, you will see two channels labeled ‘Branded Paid Search’ and ‘Generic Paid Search’ added to the Default Channel Grouping

  • Click on the pencil icon next to the ‘Generic Paid Search’ and ‘Branded Paid Search’ and see how they have been defined and you will get an idea of how to create the ‘Unknown Paid Search’ channel
  • Click on ‘Define’ a new channel’ button to create the unknown paid search channel



7 Primary Google Analytics Channels You Should Never Sideline

Google Analytics is a web analytics service from by Google that is meant to website owners to keep tabs on their websites’ performance. You can use it to know the return on investment on your digital marketing campaigns, such as social media marketing or paid advertising. 

get google ranking ad

Google’s market share was estimated to be 92.47% in 2020, and there are no signs of other search engine taking its spot at the top of the food chain. One of the primary highlights of using Google Analytics to monitor your Singapore business website is that data is collected in real-time. Unlike third-party analytics tools, the report generated by Google Analytics is more accurate since it is collected in real-time.

Google team has worked smart to make the interface as user-friendly as possible. Apart from the graphics, the data is categorised into channels. It’s essential to understand what the data in each channel represents to make informed decisions. Otherwise, you may end up spending thousands of dollars on marketing strategies that don’t resonate with your Singapore business. 

7 Primary Google Analytics Channels You Should Never Sideline image6

Photo Credit: Ceralytics

We wouldn’t want you to make that mistake, so here is a comprehensive overview of the seven primary Google Analytics Channels. We will briefly discuss what each means and how you should respond to the data presented.


1: Direct Channel

As the name suggests, this is a Google analytics channel dedicated to traffic from people who landed on your website directly. This group of users did not click on an ad or link in a guest post published on another website. They input your website URL in their browser or came across your website in the past and bookmarked it. 

7 Primary Google Analytics Channels You Should Never Sideline image8

Photo Credit: Moz.com

The traffic may also be from business associates who shared your website URL with potential customers without adding a campaign tag to the link. Knowing the number of people who visit your website directly will help you to gauge your branding efforts. 


2: Organic Search Channel

Simply put, organic search means traffic from prospects who found your website by doing a search on a search engine. They probably used a phrase or question to search for information related to their interests, and your website popped up because the content you published is related to the question. 

7 Primary Google Analytics Channels You Should Never Sideline image7

Photo Credit: Klipfolio.com 

One of the surest ways of increasing organic traffic is by investing in stellar content marketing strategies. Increasing organic traffic will help you to expand your clientele base without spending a fortune. Regularly check out Google Search Console to know the type of keywords website visitors use to your website. 


3: Social Channel

Social media platforms are digital marketing powerhouses. You cannot afford to ignore this form of marketing if you want to succeed in the competitive Singapore market. The top nine social media platforms in Singapore are Facebook, YouTube, WeChat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr. 7 Primary Google Analytics Channels You Should Never Sideline image10

Photo Credit: Akers Digital

Over the years, Google has refined its processes to capture website traffic from such social media platforms. More than 3.6 billion people use social media globally, and the number is expected to clock 4.41 billion by 2025. 4.82 million Singaporeans are on social media, and the number is expected to continue rising and hit 5.09 million by 2025. 

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Create compelling social media marketing campaigns in Singapore to catapult your business to the next level of success. Google Analytics social channel will help you know the traffic your website gets from social media platforms. With this information, you will be able to come up with ways of improving your campaigns. You can also use the data to know which social media sites you are not currently using for marketing purposes but have potential. 


4: Email Channel

Email marketing has one of the highest return on investment rating compare to other digital marketing strategies such as social media marketing. For every dollar invested in email marketing, a business gets an average ROI of 55 SGD.

Google analytics Email channel will help you know the amount of traffic your website is due to email marketing. The tool is set to pull data from your email newsletters and other materials that you send to people on your mailing list. 

To avoid confusion, it is recommendable to tag the links in the content body. Otherwise, all the traffic will be captured and presented in the direct channel. You can avoid this by ensuring that your preferred email marketing tool is fully connected to your Google Analytics account. 

The data will help you accurately calculate your email marketing ROI and make the right decisions about the future. For example, if you realise that most recipients respond to your emails when you include an offer, get creative and come up with exciting offers. 

As you do that, make sure that you don’t ignore the core reason why you are doing email marketing – which is to increase traffic and conversion rate, not undervalue your products or services. 

7 Primary Google Analytics Channels You Should Never Sideline image9

Photo Credit: Digital Agency Network


5: Referral Channel

Backlink is one of the strongest websites ranking factors, as the Google team has repeatedly mentioned. Google considers websites that have many links backlinks as an authority and rewarded them with a high rank on the search engines results page. However, it would be best if you made sure that the links are posted on websites that have a good reputation, are an authority in your niche and have high domain authority.

Like other digital marketing campaigns, you need to keep track of your backlink profile to stay ahead of the curve. Google analytics referral channel has data of all the traffic from other websites that are not categorised as social media channels. 

The information in this channel will help you to know which sites are linking to you. Reach out to them and develop a mutually beneficial partnership to grow and become an authority website. While there, look out for websites with a low domain authority or spam and delete them. Such malicious sites can harm your credibility and ranking if left to continue sending traffic to your site.


6: Paid Search Channel

In 2017, more than 7 million advertisers spent SGD 132 billion on pay-per-click (PPC) ads. The average annual cost of a PPC campaign ranges between SGD143,000 and SGD158,895. Paid advertising has an average ROI of 200%. 

All the traffic from paid ads will be grouped and presented in the Paid Search channel. All data about traffic from YouTube ads, Google Ad Grant, and all other Google Ad platforms will be found in this channel. 

By looking at the data, you will be able to carry out A/B tests on different ads and know which platforms you should cut out and which ones you should invest more in to get more sales and exposure online. For example, if a high proportion of traffic comes from dynamic ads, invest more in them but be cautious not to bombard the target customers with too many ads. 


7: Other Advertising Channel

Like other analytics tools, Google Analytics is not perfect, but it is better than 70% of other similar tools. All the traffic that is not encompassed in the Paid Search channel will be presented in the Other Advertising channel. Much of the traffic will be from advertisements that you tagged yourself. 



Common Traffic Data Inaccuracies and Plausible Solutions

While the seven categories above may see straightforward, Google Analytics often lumps traffic in specific channels based on the source. 

What does this mean? The quality of data captured and presented in the channel is dependent on how well you tag your online marketing campaigns in Singapore. If you use non-standard tags, the traffic captured will be presented on the wrong channel. 


1: Singapore Email Marketing Campaigns that Are Not Tagged

Most businesses use more than one email marketing tools to connect with potential customers. While that is perfectly fine, it is vital to make sure that the tools can help you achieve the set goals. 

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If you are using Constant Contact and Mailchimp, ensure that the tag setting feature is linked to your Google Analytics account is turned on. Contact the company if you cannot find this option on the user-interface. You could also add the tags manually to get even more control over your campaigns. 

Proper tagging will give you a clear perspective of the campaign’s performance and enable you to segment the traffic. All the data will be presented in the email channel to help you compare the actual site traffic with the tool’s data. 


2: Not Linking AdWords Accounts

Google AdWords is instrumental when running advertisement campaigns on Google. Make sure that your AdWords account is linked to the Google Analytics account. If you miss this step, all the traffic will still be in added to the paid search channel, but you won’t be able to know which campaign, keywords, or ads drove the traffic. 

Due to the lack of such essential data, you will not accurately determine the success rate of independent or individual AdWords campaigns. For example, if you run a digital marketing agency in Singapore, you will not show potential customers the success you recently achieved after running a PPC campaign for a client.

Click on Acquisition, then AdWords > Channel to get a report of your campaign’s performance. Metrics such as engagement and conversion rate will help you pinpoint the specific areas of the paid advertising campaign that should be tweaked. 

7 Primary Google Analytics Channels You Should Never Sideline image2

Photo Credit: Megalytics 

By correctly linking the accounts, Google Analytics will group the AdWords data correctly in either Display or Paid Search channel. 

7 Primary Google Analytics Channels You Should Never Sideline image1

Photo Credit: Megalytics 


3: Not Tracking Offline Campaigns

Even though digital marketing is the most effective way of connecting with customers, you cannot afford to ignore offline campaigns. One of the main reasons your website traffic recently spiked even though you haven’t adjusted the campaign is probably because you are not tracking newspaper and magazine advertisements. 

Not tracking offline campaigns creates is a major issue as you will assume that your content marketing campaign is now better, while in reality, it’s not the cause of the increase in traffic. One solution to this problem is by including a vanity URL or discount code in the advertisement. Keep track of the number of people who use the code to track sales better. 

A vanity link that directs the audience to a specific landing page will also help you better understand the campaign. These custom URLs should be permanent redirects, not temporary. 

7 Primary Google Analytics Channels You Should Never Sideline image4

Photo Credit: Neil Patel

Above is an example of an offline advertisement by Dell. Notice the E-Value discount code at the bottom? That code is meant to help the company track the number of people who saw the ad and responded to it. 


Auto-Tagging all AdWords

As mentioned earlier, failing to tag links is the main reason why most businesses end up making decisions based on inaccurate traffic data. Apart from making sure that all your Singapore AdWords accounts are linked to your Google Analytics account, you need also to make sure that auto-tagging is turned on always. 

Most email marketing tools, such as Mailchimp, have this inbuilt feature that you can leverage to ensure that all your campaigns are correctly tagged. Check out the image below to know where this feature is located.

7 Primary Google Analytics Channels You Should Never Sideline image3

Photo Credit: Megalytics 

By checking the box, you will activate the feature and be allowed to input a value or campaign tag for your ad campaign. Once you do that, you will notice that the email campaigns will have a random/unique prefix in your Google Analytics report. Mailchimp does this to ensure that every campaign tag is unique.

7 Primary Google Analytics Channels You Should Never Sideline image5

Photo Credit: Megalytics 

Unfortunately, the random tags can make it difficult for you to decipher the information, thereby increasing the risk of making decisions based on the wrong data. One plausible solution to this challenge is not relying on the Mailchimp tagging option. Instead, manually do the tagging based on your campaign taxonomy. 

A straightforward way of doing this all-important step is by incorporating the desired tags in all the links that you inserted in the HTML emails. To guarantee the data’s accuracy, make sure that the auto-tagging feature on Google Analytics is turned off – so recheck the Mailchimp campaign administration panel.



Google Analytics is one of the most vital tools for businesses today. It will help you understand the metrics about your traffic and the keywords that will help you scale your business.

Contact us today for digital marketing services that will help you rank higher on Google for your keywords.



What is Google Analytics?

Most popular analytics software, allows you to analyze in-depth website activities with valuable insights that can help you for generating and planning for a good digital marketing strategy.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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