Multi-Channel Funnel Reports Show Conversion Attribution Chain

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The Top Conversion Paths report displays conversion attribution history.

In a recent post, we saw that the Goals reports in Google Analytics attribute conversions entirely to the last click or to the last direct visit that didn’t follow a more specific source.

The Multi-Channel Funnel reports, however, do preserve the entire attribution history leading up to conversions. Also, they do not overwrite (direct)/(none) as (source)/(medium) for a visit if a more specific source (such a referral, an organic visit, or a campaign) generated a previous visit. In this way, the Multi-Channel Funnel reports can more accurately reflect the chain of sources that drove conversions.

As with any sort of visit-to-visit tracking, the Multi-Channel Funnel reports depend on browser cookies. If the visitor deletes cookies, attribution history is lost, and Google Analytics starts a new attribution record on that visitor’s next visit.

By default, the channels defined in the Multi-Channel Funnels report may be too general. In an upcoming post, we’ll discuss how to create custom channels for more actionable insights.

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Terminated Campaigns Can Still Appear as Traffic Sources

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This AdWords report displays campaigns that were terminated before the selected date range.

While reviewing your AdWords Campaigns report in Google Analytics, you see that the report lists campaigns that were terminated before the selected date range.

This is not an error. Google Analytics stores the traffic source of an original visit in the __utmz cookie that it writes to the visitor’s browser and refreshes the source with each visit – except if the returning visit is direct.

When a visitor returns to your site by typing your URL directly into the browser or accessing a bookmark saved in the browser, the __utmz cookie does not override any of the more specific traffic sources below that it recorded on a previous visit:

• organic search

• Autotagged AdWords campaign

• referral from another website

• any inbound link containing Google Analytics campaign tags

This feature in Google Analytics is quite useful, since it usually makes sense to attribute a returning direct visit to a more specific original source.

Remember to add campaign tags to inbound links from emails, or resulting visits will count as direct and you therefore will not be able to credit your email campaigns for any visits or conversions at any point in the visitor lifecycle.

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Cookie Deletion Reduces Return Visitor Percentage

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If users delete cookies from their browsers, Google Analytics can’t track them as return visitors.

Industry research and undoubtedly your own observations indicate that Web users frequently delete cookies.

Since Google Analytics depends on cookies for user, session, and source tracking, their deletion has the following significant impacts:

  • New visitors skew higher, and returning visitors skew lower.
  • Unique visitors skew higher.
  • In the Frequency and Recency report, Count of Visits (per visitor) and Days Since Last Visit both skew lower.
  • More direct traffic is reported. If you click through to from a specific source such as a Google organic search result on Monday and then enter directly into your browser address bar on Wednesday, your Wednesday visit still counts as organic – unless you delete your cookies on Tuesday, in which case the source and medium are lost and your Wednesday visit counts as direct.

These same effects arise, of course, when a visitor returns using a different browser, since cookies aren’t shared among different browsers on the same computer and certainly not among different computers altogether.

There’s no specific formula that can offset the loss of return visits, so just keep the cookie deletion (and multiple-browser) factors in mind as you review you Google Analytics reports. There is always a greater percentage of return visits than Google Analytics can report.

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