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Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels: Revealing the Hidden Value of … Everything

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By now you may have heard about a new feature being tested in Google Analytics: “Multi-Channel Funnels.” Justin Cutroni had a great write-up of what the feature is (or rather, could be) and some of the details on how it works. Today, I want to share  some example use cases to help you wrap your head around how Multi-Channel Funnels could help you conduct better analysis of your marketing programs.

Before we jump in, I should note that Google Analytics has let us know that the feature called Multi-Channel Funnels discussed in this blog post is in limited pilot. That means that Google Analytics is testing the feature and its usefulness to a small group of trusted testers, and have not made any plans or a timeline for a full launch.

That said, judging by the initial response across the blogosphere, there’s some interest in this kind of functionality, so on to the use cases!

If you’re like many direct response-oriented online businesses, you’ve probably noticed that over time, there are certain types of traffic that tend to convert most often for you: a very common example would be a combination of search traffic (especially branded search) and “direct” traffic, i.e. people typing your URL straight into their browser. Below, we’ve got a classic example of this scenario: relatively high conversion rates from organic search and direct traffic (which shows up as “none” in this case), and relatively low conversion rates from referral links and our nascent social media marketing program.

For many online businesses, one or two channels of traffic can start to dominate when it comes time to evaluate results. This may be because you have one particular marketing channel that works especially well, but it could also be because the Google Analytics attribution model actually “hides” the success of other channels. How is that possible?

Google uses a “last-touch” attribution model, so ask yourself: what happens if you’re doing marketing, such as branding, that doesn’t immediately generate conversions, but could still be adding value for you? It’s awfully difficult to figure that out in most analytics tools today. Of course, without this understanding, it’s essentially impossible to make the best decisions when it comes to marketing budgets, resource allocation, etc.

With Multi-Channel Funnels, Google no longer limits you to evaluating success based solely on the “last touch.” Instead, you can see all of the touch points prior to a conversion (up to 30 days back in time). What this lets you do is evaluate all of your marketing efforts to uncover their hidden value.

Let’s take social media as an example. As we saw above, using Google’s traditional reports, social media seems to have a low conversion rate. In fact, it was the lowest-converting medium of all! However, let’s take a look at the multi-channel funnel to see if anything changes.

As you can see, social-networking still generates a relatively low number of “last interaction conversions,” i.e. the conversions you’d traditionally see in Google Analytics. However, look at all of those “assisted conversions!” Assists are touch points that occurred with a user before the ultimate conversion. What we’re seeing here is that social-networking doesn’t directly generate a lot of purchases, but it does produce a lot of awareness and interaction with users – who later convert.

A great metric to use to reveal the hidden value of your marketing channels is “Assisted / Last Interaction Conversions.” Never mind the tongue-tying name; what this metric tells you is how many assists a given channel produces for every final conversion. If you see a higher number (say, 1.5 or more), you’ve probably been drastically underestimating the success of a given channel! That’s because there’s a ton of value behind that channel that Google previously couldn’t show you.

In this case, you couldn’t be blamed for putting the brakes on your social media marketing program. After all, based on the best data available, you’d be seeing a low conversion rate. Of course, that would be big mistake – you’d end up losing out on a lot of later conversions without knowing why or how many!

So how could you use Multi-Channel Funnels? We showed the hidden value of social media today, but plenty of marketing types could produce similar phenomena. What about:

  • Display advertising (e.g. Google Display Network)
  • Non-branded search
  • Referral links
  • Affiliate programs
  • Offline media (use vanity URLs to track!)

There’s so much value we currently can’t quantify and attribute – I’m really hoping this pilot eventually turns into a full-fledged feature. Multi-Channel Funnels could really help all of us “pull back the curtain” and make our marketing programs run much more efficiently – and profitably. To learn more, check out Google’s introductory video below, and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date.

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