Breaking down and understanding Google Analytics (Pt.2 of 3)

This is part 2 of a 3-part series to help you better understand Google Analytics. Part One discussed the Audience tab in Google Analytics and broke down what Google Analytics can tell you about the type of people visiting your website.


Let’s look at the Acquisition tab to learn more about where your website’s traffic is coming from.

Under this tab, there are several submenus. We will not discuss every sub-menu here as some are contingent on whether or not you are running paid advertising and some are redundant. For this newsletter, we are concentrating on the items commonly available without paid advertising and that deliver the most intuitive information.

Overview and All Traffic

The Overview submenu is a great place to understand where your website traffic is coming from. Most of the information you need can be found here. For more detailed information, we’ll start by exploring the next submenu, All Traffic. When you first click on the All Traffic submenu, you see several charts that show your top Channels, the number of Users per day, and the Goal Conversion Rate.

We will focus on the Channels for now as we covered some of the other information in the last newsletter. You can also go more in depth with channels by click on All Traffic > Channels.



Google Analytics has a list of 10 channels that it defines automatically.

  • Organic
  • Search Direct
  • Social
  • Referral
  • Email
  • Affiliates
  • Paid Search
  • Other Advertising
  • Display
  • Unavailable or other

These channels are set as the defaults, but you can also set up custom, user-defined channels.

We are concentrating on the first five, as the others rely on paid advertising or an affiliate setup to produce information.

Organic Search

When someone visits your website as a result of searching for a specific keyword or keyphrase in a search engine, such as Google, it registers in Organic Search.

Organic Traffic is seen as the holy grail of traffic because it means your content is actively generating interest without the use of paid advertising. Organic traffic also tends to better convert as well.

If your website is newer, or your SEO is set up improperly, then this number might be quite low. However, over time, websites with quality, SEO-friendly content should expect to produce 50% or higher organic search traffic.

Direct Traffic

Direct Traffic is a tricky channel. Generally, when a user intentionally types in your URL to navigate directly to your site, it is considered direct traffic. 

When this is the case, the higher your direct traffic number, the more loyal repeat visitors you have. It means your brand is memorable and users have possibly bookmarked your website.

However, in some instances, direct traffic is a default measurement for when Google can’t process the data. Improper HTTPS redirects, links from Word documents, and improperly formatted email campaigns can all lead to skewed numbers. It’s always good to take this number with a grain of salt.

If you review your direct traffic in correlation with the data on returning Users within the Audience tab, you can see how they stack up with one another. If you find your direct traffic goes up but your returning users number does not, this could indicate there is a traffic source Google can’t process correctly.


It is important to track the Social Channel, especially if you use social media to drive traffic to your website. A good website should be the hub of your traffic, and social media should be set up to drive traffic to your site (not vice-versa). Reviewing this number can help you determine if your social media efforts are successful.


Are there other websites that bring traffic to your website? Most SEO experts call these backlinks. Google rates websites based on quality backlinks. Early on, this can be vitally important to build organic traffic. A higher rating allows your pages to rank better in search results, which helps create greater initial traffic.


If you are producing any email marketing, any links within your emails that drive subscribers back to your website will show up here. Make sure to check the settings in your email newsletter provider platform. Some require you to turn on a setting to tag links for Google Analytics. If this setting isn’t activated, Google may register traffic from these links under the Referral sub menu instead of Email.

You can see more detailed information by clicking on any of the specific channels. For instance, click on Organic Search and you’ll see what keywords people searched to find your website. Under Social Media, you’ll find a breakdown of what social media sources produce the most traffic.

Bounce Rate and Channels

Last week we talked about Bounce Rate. You can explore the bounce rate for each channel. You may notice a lot of traffic from one channel but a high bounce rate. Whereas another channel may not bring in as much traffic, but the bounce rate is lower.

This could indicate better quality traffic from that second source.

You may want to consider putting more effort into that traffic source, or analyze how to improve the traffic flow for people who visit using a different channel.

For instance if your organic traffic bounce rate is low but your social media bounce rate is high, you may want to look at retooling your landing pages for your social media audience.

Search Console

This section requires that 

  1. You have Google Search Console set up.

  2. You link your Google Search Console to your Google Analytics.

For specific instructions on how to do this click here.

Once this is done, you will have access to very useful information.

Landing Pages

The Landing Page submenu provides specific information on the number of times a page on your site shows up in search results (impressions) and how many times people clicked on them.

The Landing Page submenu also gives you the average position of the link in the search results. The higher the position, the closer to the top of Google search results. 

You can also find the average bounce rate for the clicks to these pages. This can give you an idea of the quality of traffic to specific pages.


Under the Queries submenu, you can explore the specific search queries that people are using to find your website. This provides you the top keywords and phrases people entered into Google to find your site. It can help you identify alternative key phrases to use when writing your content and possibly phrases to exclude from your content.


Under the Social tab you can deep dive into some of the numbers that you saw in the Overview section. For our purposes we want to specifically take a look at the Users Flow submenu.

User Flow

Located within the Social tab is a helpful submenu called Users Flow Tab. This tab provides a flowchart of traffic from your social media as users typically go from page to page within your site. You can track the top pages that your visitors view on your site and see if they move or click through to other pages.

Analyzing this data can help you discover any roadblocks in your optimal traffic flow on your website.

Part 3 - User Behavior

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