Jeremy Smith Jul 7, 2016 8:00:41 AM 19 min read

Inbound Marketing: Using Google Analytics to identify which campaigns are outperforming the rest

Have you ever wondered if that display campaign you are running is working or not?  Or maybe you see a great open- and click-through rate on your email campaigns, but low conversions.

Meanwhile, since you have started optimizing your campaign, your leads and/or revenue are increasing, but everyone thinks it's because of paid search.

Many digital marketers unknowingly optimize for conversions by following the Last Click Wins strategy.

In fact, most digital marketers aren't aware of the fact that Google Analytics standard reporting defaults its attribution model to the last click.  Which simply means, Analytics gives credit to the campaign  that the user clicked on last.

Marketers who follow the Last Click Wins strategy only care (or so it appears) about how a visitor reached their website at the time of conversion, and not about all the other times that person might have visited the site.

Infographic depicting "Last Click Wins," the idea that multiple channels lead to a conversion but we tend to credit the last ad clicked on

(Image source)

The last click wins in their minds. They optimize their site based on that last click while ignoring all the other channels that contributed to moving the visitor through the sales funnel.

It works like this:

  • Oh, look someone bought our product!
  • I wonder where he came from?
  • Click ... Click. Scroll. Click.
  • He came from Facebook! Facebook, you guys!
  • Okay, let’s spend a trillion bucks on Facebook everyone! Let’s hire 43 Facebook people. And let’s start posting 90 times a day!

Basically, they’re living in the bow-hunting world of conversion optimization.

The unwritten rule in bow hunting is that if multiple hunters shoot the same deer, whoever got the kill shot is the one who keeps the quarry.

I didn’t make that up.

Digital marketing doesn’t work like that, though. It may be that multiple channels helped convert a curious tire-kicker into a paying customer.

Each channel needs to receive some credit.

Infographic titled Who Gets the Credit depicting three paths through multiple paid and organic search channels

(Image source)

If you are looking to optimize your site correctly, you’ll need to not only pay attention to the last click, but you’ll need to focus on all the channels that a person used to visit your site prior to conversion.

That’s how you’ll get an accurate impression of the full sales path.

Here are a few pointers on multichannel CRO that will allow you to optimize brilliantly and flawlessly.

1. Identify Your Channels

If you’ve been doing this online marketing thing for a while, then you’re probably following another strategy made popular by numerous gurus: the Kitchen Sink strategy.

What’s the Kitchen Sink strategy?

It’s the idea, acquired from reading multiple digital marketing articles online, that to succeed in marketing you have to use everything up to and including the kitchen sink to reach your target market.


Infographic titled Multichannel Marketing and depicting 12 advertising media

(Image source)

People who practice the Kitchen Sink strategy use email marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, search engine optimization, online advertising, and any other medium that self-described marketing experts are promoting these days.

“If it’s good enough for them, it must be the right thing to do,” they say.

This isn’t the place to question that assessment, but rather to point out that the Kitchen Sink strategy creates a variety of channels that bring people into the sales funnel. When someone finally converts, you want to know whether they converted because of only one channel or because of a combination of channels.

To do that, you need to start by identifying all of your channels. Then, you’ll be in a better position to optimize for each of them.

2. Tracking Your Channels

Once you’ve identified your multiple channels, it’s time to start tracking them.

Google Analytics can help track your digital marketing campaigns and tell you how each channel contributes to the sales process,  with minimal configuration efforts.

Screenshot of MCF Channel Grouping Path in Google Analytics

(Image source)

It’s important to know, though, that you can customize your channel groupings from what the default template offers you.

multichannelfunnelsOnce you’ve set up any customization of channel groupings and/or labels in Google Analytics, you’ll be able to see how all of your Kitchen Sink channels help guide people down the sales funnel.

To see that, open up Google Analytics and select the website that you’re optimizing. Then, click on “Conversions” in the left-hand sidebar.

Underneath that, you should see an option for “Multi-Channel Funnels.” Click on that.

The drop-down menu that appears below that offers a trove of information about your various sales channels:

  • Assisted Conversions Report – Shows you how specific channels contributed to a sales or lead. Even better: if you set up goals and assign a dollar value to conversion goals, the report will also tell you the dollar value of each channel. Keep in mind that goals are also not set up by default.
  • Top Conversion Paths Report – View this report and you’ll no longer believe in the Last Click Wins strategy. It shows you all the multiple channels that your customers followed before they converted, as well as the dollar value of each conversion. It’s a great way to see which channels are the champions in your sales funnel.
  • Time Lag Report – Ever want to know how many days it takes people to convert? This report answers that question.
  • Path Length Report – Ever want to know how many channels people have to follow before they finally convert? This report answers that question.

The simplest way to explain how Google Analytics tracks this interaction is through the use of very safe, non-intrusive first-party cookie data.

The search giant places a cookie in a visitor’s browser when he or she visits the site. The cookie identifies how the user reached the site (the traffic source).

Graphic illustration of components of a UTM campaign "cookie" tracking formula

(Image source)

That’s the information that the Big G aggregates when you view the multi-channel reports.

Now that you’ve identified and know how to track your various sales channels, it’s time to look at ways to optimize your site for more conversions.

3. Channel Optimization

What kind of actions should you take in response to the multi-channel information gleaned from Google Analytics?

Let’s look at a few possibilities.

For starters, keep in mind that Google’s multi-channel analysis for direct traffic is treated differently from how Google Analytics normally treats direct traffic.

Here’s what you need to know: if somebody arrives at your site via organic search and then later revisits your site by a bookmark or typing the URL into the browser bar, then Google’s standard way of doing things is to credit organic search for the traffic.

Not so with multi-channel tracking.

In that case, if somebody visits your site via organic search and then revisits it from a bookmark or by typing the URL into the browser bar, that’s credited in your multi-channel reports as a direct visit.

Annotated screenshot depicting difference in data obtained when using multi-channel funnel reports in Google Analytics vs. default setting

(Image source)

Why is that important? Because it could skew GA’s reports about how well your direct traffic is converting.

With that in mind, though, take a look at your reports and determine which channel, if any, seems to draw in the lion’s share of traffic.

For example, take a look at the report below.

Screenshot of Basic Channel Grouping Path report in Google Analytics

(Image source)

In the report you can see that three of the four top-performing conversion paths involve organic search. Additionally, seven of the top 10 paths involve organic search.

None of the paths involve social media.

If you’re looking at this report and you spend an inordinate amount of money on social media marketing, it might be a good idea to cut the SMM spend and reallocate more resources to SEO. Use the money you save from social media marketing to hire somebody to optimize your SEO efforts  and improve your organic search results.

Also, you can see that your referral conversions are weak. If you’re not putting a lot of resources into referrals, it might be time to change that.

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to follow the advice of Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers. Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative by allocating resources to what works and quit spending money on what doesn’t.

Another great way to use the multi-channel reports is to calculate your ROI. You’re in business to make money, after all.

Let’s say that the report above is for one month. That means your organic search contributed to $14,985 in revenue for the month.

Question: Are you getting the right bang for your buck in your SEO spend?

Well, if you’re spending $1,000 per month on SEO and earning almost $15,000 per month in revenue as a result of organic search, then it’s safe to say that, yeah, that investment is worth it.

Depiction of formula for determining ROI - return on investment

Now, if you were following the Last Click Wins strategy, then you’d determine that organic search is only bringing in $7,830 per month (look at the report above and note where “Organic Search” is the last item).

That’s still a positive ROI, but it’s almost cut in half from the more accurate number that you get when you look at all channels.

Also, if your organic search is assisting in conversions, it’s a good idea to look at the keywords that people are using to find your site.

You might see that a few people are finding your site from a keyword that’s embedded deep in the SERPs. Those people eventually convert, but the problem is that there are only a few of them finding you for that keyword because it ranks so poorly.

Once you’re armed with that information, you can decide to invest money in SEO that will rank you higher for that keyword, or invest in paid search. Of course, you can do both.

Then, check the multi-channel report in a month and run the ROI numbers to see whether the investment is giving you a positive return.


Avoid following the Last Click Wins strategy. You’re smarter than that.

Look at all of the channels that bring visitors to your site and ultimately lead them to become paying customers.

That’s the only way you’ll understand how to optimize your site and to properly identify campaigns that ultimately assist in your conversion funnel.


Jeremy Smith

Digital marketer with a penchant for dance; helping clients see the light through the jungle of tweets since before Twitter was cool.