Classify Your (Other) Channel in Google Analytics

Classify Your (Other) Channel in Google Analytics

Are you seeing a row labelled (Other) in your Google Analytics (GA) Channels report?

(Other) is a non-descriptive and sometimes misleading label. If you want an explanation of what (Other) means, why you are seeing it and how to classify that traffic into the proper Channels, keep reading.

What Is (Other)?

(Other) contains inbound traffic that GA does not know how to classify so GA buckets the traffic together and labels it (Other). It is a combination of Paid, Display, Social, Email, Referral etc., and non-tagged campaigns.

How Does GA Group Channels?

Google has guidelines for default channel definitions that groups your data into what Google considers its Default Channels. GA captures your UTM parameters and/or referral information and uses these definitions to parse the information into the right reports. If you use custom mediums (utm_medium=) or don’t tag your campaigns at all, they will not match the criteria of the predefined channels. In these cases, GA will likely not process your channels correctly and custom mediums will end up in (Other). In some cases, un-tagged traffic from well-known mediums will be classified properly. For example, if you forget to tag a Facebook campaign it will still be classified under the Social channel.

Remember, GA is only a tool. If you follow its rules, it will act as you would expect. When you send it custom data without telling the tool how to process that information the results are going to be sub optimal.

How (Other) Can Impact Your Analysis

Given enough time, (Other) you may end up with a lot of data that misrepresents the true story. Imagine if 50% of email campaign data was wrongly classified as (Other). Your email teams would be under-attributing conversions from their campaigns. When it comes time to decide on marketing budgets, decision makers would be wrongly informed by taking the Channel report at face-value without further data cleansing.

Reducing the Effects of (Other)

To enable Google Analytics to group your traffic into the right channels and get rid of (Other), you have two options:

  1. Use the Default Channel Definitions– When tagging campaigns, make sure you and your agencies are tagging campaigns with Google’s pre-defined mediums outlined in the link. For example, some standard naming conventions you may want to use include:
    • “utm_medium=email” for Email
    • “utm_medium=social” for Social (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit)
    • “utm_medium=cpc” for non-Google paid search (Bing, Yahoo)
    • “utm_medium=display” for non-Google display ads (Bing, Yahoo)

    If you have a large enough organization that it would be an absolute nightmare to introduce that sort of standardization, try option 2.

  2. Create a Custom Channel Grouping – You can do so by either (a) redefining your default channel grouping or (b) creating a separate custom channel grouping based on your campaign tagging structure. Either way, this option allows you to maintain your existing campaign tagging structure.

Deciding between adjusting the Default or creating a Custom Channel Grouping depends on how consistent your organization’s campaign tagging structure is. If your organization has a consistent tagging taxonomy then you can opt to update the Default Channel Grouping. Updating the Default Channel Grouping gives you more flexibility because, unlike the Custom Channel Grouping, it can be used in custom reports, API extracts, and Data Studio. If this option makes the most sense for you, we recommend redefining the Default Channel Grouping in a separate view.

It is important to note that updating the Default Channel Grouping only takes effect during processing time; therefore your changes will apply moving forward from the day you update the grouping. Another point to mention is when you copy a View, any changes to the Default Channel Grouping are not copied with it so you will need to replicate your changes each time you copy that View.

If you have a somewhat unstructured tagging approach and will need to re-sort your data into channels often, you may be better off to set up a Custom Channel Grouping. Custom Channel Groupings use query time processing so they apply retroactively. This will allow you to adjust the custom grouping on a continuous basis and go back in time to re-evaluate your redefined channel’s historical performance.

What other messy data are you seeing? Maybe we can help. Message us to talk more about your data issues.

By |2018-03-12T14:28:23+00:00February 22nd, 2018|0 Comments

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