Understanding Analytics: Acquisition

Understanding Analytics: Acquisition

Google Analytics Acquisition

Last week we talked about the Audience portion of Google Analytics, or who your website viewers are. We talked about seeing what language they speak, where they are geographically located, whether or not they’ve visited your corner of the web before, what kind of technology they’re using to view your website, and how captive they are (time they’re sticking around, number of pages they’re viewing, etc.).

Today we’re going to dig into how those visitors are finding you through via which online avenues. Knowing this information can help you determine where you need to concentrate your efforts to get more visitors and/or what sources are currently driving the most visitors to your website so you can be sure to optimize that traffic.

Understanding the Acquisitions Portion of Google Analytics

Google Analytics AcquisitionAll Traffic

Channels: This shows you the sources from which your visitors are arriving at your site.

1. Organic Search: Visitors who arrive at your site from a Google search

2. Direct: Visitors who come to your site through a direct link that is untraceable by Google (ie: typing in your website address or using a bookmark)

3. Social: Visitors who come to your website via social networks. Check out which networks are driving the most traffic to your site and use that information to determine how you should use social media to your advantage. Compare the number of sessions against the amount of time those visitors spend on your site, pages per session, and bounce rate to determine which networks to focus on.

*NOTE* Instagram is a weird guy when it comes to analytics. Sometimes this shows up under “Referral” and sometimes “Direct.” Hopefully Google Analytics will be able to fix this soon. Until then, read my post on How to Track Instagram Referrals in Google Analytics.

4. Referral: Visitors who come to your website from a link on another website (directories, mentions, sidebar referrals, etc.)

Source/Medium This is another view of essentially the same information as Channels, but acts as a cross between what you see when you are looking at the “Channels” screen and what you see when you click on each channel so you can compare the bigger picture and the smaller picture at the same time.

Referrals This is another view of the information from the above sections. This gives you all websites that drive traffic to your site—including social media, but minus the search engine (organic) and direct traffic. Click on the domain, and you’ll see the specific page that referred the visit to your site.

So basically choose which screen you like best between Channels, Source/Medium, and Referrals.

Search Engine Optimization

For this section, you will need to connect to your Google Webmasters account to see any data (we’ll go into Webmasters in a different series).

Queries: This shows you the top search terms/queries people use to find your website against the number of impressions (the number of times your site appeared as a result for that search), clicks (the number of times someone actually clicked on your site in a search result), average position (the average search result ranking of your site for that particular term), and CTR (aka Click Through Rate—percentage of clicks from impressions). *Note: Adwords is excluded from these metrics.

This gives you a great idea of what sort of people are finding your site and how to better optimize your site for these words (or make adjustment to avoid searches that aren’t exactly a great match. For example: My “Feeling Sexy” Running Playlist post keeps showing up for searches like “sexy running” and I have a feeling that’s not exactly what they’re looking for).

Landing pages: Top pages on your site that have showed up for the most search results (and therefore would be a point of entry to your site).

This is a great indicator of which pages to focus on to increase your Organic Search traffic.

Geographical summary: This gives you insight into the number of searches you show up in for other countries.


We’ll skip an explanation of the overview section here because, like it says, it’s just an overview of what I’m explaining more deeply in each of these sections.

Network Referrals: This gives you the number of visits that are coming to you from each of your social networks. Usually, the networks you’re most focusing on will be the highest, but this can also give you a clue as to where your target audience is at. For example, spending a lot of time on Facebook, but seeing a larger number of referrals coming from Twitter? Maybe that’s where you should focus on engaging more.

Data Hub Activity: This track the social mentions of your site (not including Facebook and Twitter) and directs you to the actual social link where the conversation is happening. Extremely useful if a post goes viral and you want to track the information people share.

Landing Pages: These are the top entry pages to your site specifically from social networks. Click on the page to see which networks are sending traffic to that page.

Trackbacks: This shows what websites have linked to your content, when they linked to your content, and what kind of traffic they generated.

Conversions: If you have goals setup in Google Analytics (we’ll go over that at a different time), you can track how well your social network goal conversions are doing.

Plugins: If you setup social sharing buttons as goals, this is a way to track when people “like,” “+1,” or “tweet” your content (we’ll go over that at a different time).

Users Flow: As with this Users Flow section of the Audience section, this is a visual representation of how users move throughout your site and at which point they drop off specifically for visitors from social networks.


This is data you’ll see coming in from any third party applications you might be running to schedule your posts on social media (such as Buffer) or campaign URLs you’ve created to track specific social or email campaigns (such as a specific link you have setup to track referrals from Instagram). This is also where you can see data for any paid campaigns your might be running, but for the purposes of this series, we’re going to assume you aren’t.

Now that we know who our audience is and where they are coming from, next week we’ll look at the Behavior section of Google Analytics to determine how users are interacting with your site.

As always, send me a message if you have any questions or feedback about these series. I hope to go into detail in future posts, but let me know if I left out anything important or if there’s a specific area you’d like me to focus on for next time!

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