The Digital Marketing Landscape: Setting Goals with Acquisition & Attribution

The Digital Marketing Landscape: Setting Goals with Acquisition & Attribution


Good morning, evening, day, night - whenever you’re reading this! I’m happy to be back chatting with you about your marketing analytics journey. If you’re thinking, “Who the heck is this lady?” check out my first two blogs in my digital marketing landscape series: Why You Need Marketing Analytics and Marketing Analytics Basics.

We’ve talked at a high level about what your organization can do with marketing analytics and how to get started, but now, let’s dig deeper in. How can you use your marketing data to set goals? At Zirous, we recommend looking mostly to your Google Analytics acquisition reports. Once you have an understanding of how people are coming to your site, you can use attribution models to give credit to each source appropriately.

Acquisition Reports

To navigate to acquisition reports in GA, go to your desired view, and find “Acquisition” in the left-hand column. Here, you’ll find an overview and five sub-reports: All Traffic, AdWords, Search Console, Social, and Campaigns.

The overview will give you a high-level look at your site’s performance and acquisition. This includes things like top channels, sessions, pageviews, bounce rate, etc. Most of these are “vanity” metrics as we’ve discussed in the past; they aren’t useful on their own. You’ll likely find more value in some of the other acquisition sub-reports.

All Traffic. This report is broken up into Channels, Treemaps, Source/Medium, and Referrals. These reports show you exactly their namesake: all of the traffic that’s coming to your site. This information is very valuable. In fact, I could write an entire blog just on these reports alone, but I’ll keep it short for you. My two favorites here are Channels and Source/Medium. 

Channels breaks down traffic by GA’s default channel groupings, such as direct, social, email, etc. You can take it to the next level by creating your own custom channel grouping to make your data work best for you. These insights give you a quick, easy way to see which sources are actually driving traffic to your site - and where you may want to spend more or less money. A great planning tool, indeed.

Source/Medium gives a slightly more granular level of data than Channels and is a fantastic way to customize your data easily. By using UTM parameters, you can easily lay out if traffic came from Facebook, an email newsletter, a traditional ad, etc. And by using the optional ad content feature in UTMs, you can drill down within each source/medium in GA to see which ad, email, post, link, etc. brought that traffic in.

Not only do these reports give you insight into how users are getting to your website, they’ll also tell you which channels and sources brought in the most conversions - the ultimate goal, and therefore, the ultimate goal-setting tool. If you have a dollar amount assigned to your conversions, you can quickly and easily see which channels are most profitable (and to what degree) and deserve the most your resources.

AdWords. I’d bet good money you already know what this report is all about. This report has a dozen categories, so I won’t go into all of them, but like All Traffic, let’s look at a couple that may be most useful.

Campaigns will give you clicks, budget information, conversation rates, and more for specific AdWords campaigns and ads. (To drill down to the ad level, use the “secondary dimension” tool and select “ad content.”) You can find great insight into which AdWords ads may need to be improved, which you should spend even more budget on, etc.

Keywords is useful in a similar way to Campaigns. Knowing which of your keywords are driving the most traffic to your site will tell you where to place your bids more strategically. It can also tell you how successful your keywords are, but you’ll have to look at more than clicks. If you have a keyword with high clicks, but a high bounce rate, those users were probably looking for something else.

Search Console. Google Search Console is a great tool designed to help you optimize your site’s SEO. Its reporting is very extensive, but GA has included a few summarized reports for you to use without having to leave the GA platform.

One of the most interesting of these is the Queries report, of which there is a summarized version in GA. This report tells you what words people searched before arriving to your website. (In the full version of the report within Search Console, you can also see to which page the search term lead them.)

This report may not be as directly related to high-level goal setting as some of the other acquisition reports, but it’s a very valuable report when setting targeted goals for your SEO and website strategy. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the entire Search Console tool.

Social. These reports indicate the success of your social as it relates to your website. It gives you some more insights into social than the Channels report (from All Traffic) does within the social channel. In addition to the overview, there are five sub-reports here: Network Referrals, Landing Pages, Conversions, Plugins, and Users Flow.

The Network Referrals, Landing Pages, and Conversions reports, in particular, are good for goal setting. Network Referrals will tell you from which networks visitors came, which Channels can tell you, but it will also tell you the average session duration from each network, which is great information to know which social sites provide the highest quality audience. Landing Pages indicates the same metrics, but for the pages upon which your social audience entered. At the end of the day, though, we want conversions. The Conversions report will tell you how many conversions were completed from audience members of each social platform you have. If you’ve set up a conversion value, you’ll also see how much revenue these conversions brought in.

Campaigns. Finally, the Campaigns sub-reports (All Campaigns, Paid Keywords, Organic Keywords, and Cost Analysis) will give you greater insights into your campaign performance. The All Campaigns report in particular is neat because it shows the entire campaign - AdWords and UTM-tagged items alike - and is a great way to view a campaign’s overall success. Some of this information can be found in other reports, especially in All Traffic. This is a great way to view the success of a campaign in a more centralized location; however, when breaking down these reports for the purpose of goal setting, you may find that some of the other reports are more valuable simply because the campaigns are broken into separate chunks to which you can delegate credit - and therefore budget.


So, now you know how people are getting to your site. Again, this information is so valuable because it can tell you which channels and strategies are most effective at driving traffic, and therefore are most worthy of extra attention in your marketing plan and budget.

But for many organizations, getting someone to your website is only half the battle. Then what? If they convert, do you assign that credit to the most recent acquisition? What if they’ve been to your site multiple times and have come from multiple different sources? This is an entirely other piece of the puzzle, but a very important one that fits perfectly with understanding your acquisitions.

Check out the different attribution models within the Conversions report by going to Conversion - Attribution - Model Comparison Tool. The seven different attribution models - Last Interaction, Last Non-Direct Click, Last AdWords Click, First Interaction, Linear, Time Decay, and Position Based - all distribute credit for conversions to different channels in different ways.

You and your organization’s management should determine which model makes the most sense for you. This really varies for each organization and their strategy, but Google has some pointers as to which model may make sense for you. It’s also possible to create your own custom attribution model.

Setting Goals

By using this information, you can set some really smart goals for your organization. You know which channels are driving the most traffic to your site, which areas of your site are most successful, and where your greatest amount of conversions are coming from. With this, you can create a marketing plan and budget that ensures you boost those areas of your plan in the best possible way to get the greatest return on investment. And bonus, now that you have a solid understanding of these reports, you can track that ROI even more successfully, bringing more value to the table for you and your team.

Remember: this blog is just scraping the surface, and I didn’t have time to dig into every report. Some that I didn’t mention may actually be very useful for your organization; every company and strategy is different. For any of the reports I didn’t delve into, check out Google’s Analytics Support Center as a resource for how to use each report, or contact an analytics professional to give you an objective, third-party opinion on where your money should go.

About the author: Kelsey Cervantes is the marketing manager at Zirous in West Des Moines and is certified in Google Analytics, Google AdWords, and Google Tag Manager. After studying marketing at Drake University, Kelsey spent a few years in the traditional marketing management world before going into digital marketing and analytics, which has given her great insights into how to tie the two worlds together.

06/26/2018 12:17 PM |Add a comment
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