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Regrouping Traffic – Google Analytics Default Channels

Is Google reporting all the traffic your site gets in the right channel? Do you know? If you are like many people, when you first look at your traffic you look at the channels but not necessarily what is grouped in each one.

When looking into the default referral channel group for example you may notice referrals like:,,,, and so on. These are places people came to your site from that Google’s Default Channel Grouping places in referrals even though they should be in channels like email, social or organic. But this problem is not just found in referrals, we have seen it in (other) with email or display traffic, in organic with email traffic, email with referral traffic and more.

This primarily happens because of the multi-channel funnel (MCF) default rules that Google Analytics uses. The “out of the box” MCF channel Grouping looks like this:


Default Channel Group

Mediums Defined


Interactions with a medium of "display" or "cpm". Also includes AdWords interactions with ad distribution network set to "content"


Traffic from the AdWords Search Network or other search engines, with a medium of "cpc" or "ppc" .


Sessions that are tagged with a medium of "cpc", "ppc", "cpm", "cpv", "cpa", "cpp", "affiliate" (excluding Paid Search).


Traffic from unpaid search on any search engine (i.e., medium="organic").


Traffic from any of approximately 400 social networks (that are not tagged as ads).


Traffic from websites that are not social networks.


Sessions that are tagged with a medium of "email".


Sessions in which the user typed the name of your website URL into the browser or came to your site via a bookmark (i.e., source="(direct)" and medium="(not set)" or "(none)").


As you can see source that do not have marked medium will land in referral, mediums that do not fit the default will likely land in (other) or referral while anything that is labeled with the right name but not using the exact form (has additions to it or is capitalized) can land anywhere.

Many sites have a definition that fits into the default rules for their main variation but often not their mobile, country or language variation (such as or Many site based email pages also do not have a proper definition that fit into the default rules. All of this means that unless you’re willing to go into each channel and do the calculation changes each time you report on performance you need to create your own rules and do some google analytics traffic regrouping.


Google Analytics Traffic Regrouping

Since we now know that the default channel grouping does not fully cover your reporting needs, we need to talk about how to customize it.


Investigate what is being improperly grouped by Google Analytics by default.

  • Within a year’s timeframe go into each channel and export the full source/ medium list.

  • Highlight the ones that needs to be regrouped (note where they should be) 


Review your use of UTM mediums


Define what you want to see in what channel

  • With a list of sources that need regrouping and the list of your UTM types create your final channel list.

  • Using both the common default names (direct, organic, referral, etc.) and any custom channels (internal, form, etc.).


Create rules within Google Analytics Custom Channel Grouping Tool

  • Capitalization is overriden within Google Analytics, so “email” and “Email” are seen the same.

  • Using the Google Analytics Custom Channel Grouping Tool within Admin you can build out your new Chanel Grouping (using the lists and rules you have built) using defined conditions and regex. 

Once your new channel has been created you can view your data via default or new channel by selecting the Channel within the Primary Dimension.

Primary Channel



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By Bethny Card

As a Digital Marketing Specialist, Bethny is a strong SEO resource for Thinkwrap and our clients. She holds an advanced diploma in Advertising, and brings with her over five years’ experience working in the digital marketing field across Canada and abroad. Her dedication to her career and thirst for knowledge contribute to her role helping customers achieve omnichannel growth maximum ROI.

Tags: SEO, Analytics