Narveer Singh

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What Are Channel, Source & Medium In Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a pretty powerful tool for businesses and advertisers online. 

It is like the gateway to a data collection wonderland for your business! 

But this data comes from very many different sources and mediums and channels… Hold up.

What are sources?

What are mediums?

What are channels?

Read on to find out.


The source means the origin. 


It is the website from which people visited your website! So for example, if people clicked on the link to your website on Google search engine, then the source of traffic to your website is Google!

Similarly, if the user clicks on the link to your website on your Instagram bio, then the source of traffic is Instagram!

And again, if they click on a Facebook ad that takes them to your site, then your source is Facebook.

Simple enough right?

Sometimes the user may not have come from a definite source, which means they didn’t come from a link or another website. 

Sometimes when users type the URL of your website directly on the search engine and land on your page, then Google Analytics will call it “DIRECT” (because it won’t be able to determine the source).  

An example of this would be if a user went to the browser and typed “” then it would be a direct.

There is also something called a UTM source parameter

If a user comes to your website by clicking a link which is tagged with the UTM parameters in Google, then Google analytics will report the source as utm_source.

Now that we know the different kinds of sources, where can we find them in Google Analytics ?

  1. Log in to Google Analytics
  2. Go to “Acquisition” and then click on “All Traffic”
  3. Under that click “Source/Medium”


You should know that in Google analytics, the names of the courses are highly sensitive. What I mean is that Google, google, and GOOGLE are the same word but will be treated as different sources because of the combination of upper and lower case letters.


A medium is the category of the traffic source to your website. This means that there are different categories under which the source may come from. Some of them include:

  • Organic search – written as ‘organic’
  • Cost per click paid search – written as ‘cpc’
  • Web referral – written as ‘referral’

How courses and mediums work in Google Analytics is simple. When traffic comes to your website, it is recorded in the Source/Medium format. It looks like this:


You get the idea.


When it comes to medium, there are broadly two categories.

1. System defined medium – this is a pre-built medium which carries a special meaning. This type of medium is already recognized by Google Analytics. Here are some of the examples of system defined traffic mediums in Google Analytics:

  • Organic
  • Cpc
  • Ppc
  • Paid search
  • Not set
  • None
  • Social
  • Social – network
  • Social – media
  • Email
  • Affiliate
  • Referral
  • Cpv
  • Cpa
  • Cpp
  • Content – text
  • Display
  • Cpm
  • Banner

2. User defined medium – this kind of medium is not already ingrained in GA’s database. This medium is made by people like you and me – advertisers and marketers! Google analytics gives us the freedom to create our own mediums using utm_medium parameter.

Let me give you an example. Take a look at the link below:

The text in bold is “utm_medium=paidsocial”

Here, paid social is the medium that is defined by the advertiser herself/himself for her/his website.


Now that we know the different kinds of mediums as well, let’s take a look at where to find the traffic medium in Google Analytics.

  1. Log in to Google Analytics
  2. Go to “Acquisition” and then click on “All Traffic”
  3. Under that click “Source/Medium”

Here again, medium names are very sensitive. So ‘organic’ ‘ORGANIC’ and ‘Organic’ will be recorded as different mediums. This point was earlier established for sources as well.


Before we jump into channels, we will take a look at SOURCE MEDIUM REPORTS

A source medium report is a measurement tool. It is used to measure the performance of your traffic sources in terms of:

  1. Acquisitions : this will record the number of users, the number of new users, and the number of sessions (each session of a user is recorded when they come back to the website).
  2. Behavior : this measures bounce rate, pages per session (the number of pages on average that a user sees when they visit per session) and the average time spent by the user per session.
  3. Conversions: this measures ecommerce conversion rates, transactions, revenue, goal conversion rates, goal completions and goal value.


We now know what sources and mediums are and are also familiar with source-medium reports by Google Analytics. Now it’s time to see CHANNELS.

A channel is also called a marketing channel – basically it is a group of several sources which have the same medium.


This is easy enough to understand but let me give you an example :

Say for example, you get a lot of traffic from different sources – Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Facebook. Now if all these sources of traffic are from organic searches only, then they form a channel.





So the sources are different but the medium of traffic is the same (in this case, organic) so this becomes a CHANNEL.


How can you view your channels in Google Analytics?

  1. Log in to Google Analytics.
  2. Go to “Acquisition” and click on “Overview”
  3. Under that, you have “All traffic”
  4. A drop down menu will appear with “Channels” right below “All Traffic”

Now, there are mainly two kinds of channels that are available on Google Analytics. They are:

1. Default marketing channels – they are system defined which means that the following marketing channels are already recognized and stored in google analytics :

  • Organic search
  • Paid search
  • Display
  • Discrete
  • Referral
  • Social
  • Email
  • Other

2. Custom marketing channels – these are user defined marketing channels, which means advertisers like you and me can make their own channels on Google Analytics for ease of use and if Google analytics does not recognize some of the mediums as channels.

How can you create a custom marketing channel in Google Analytics?

This is a pretty useful feature, so keep a close eye.

Step 1: Log in to Google Analytics

Step 2: Go to the “Admin” section of your main reporting view in GA

Step 3: Under the View section, you will click on “Channel settings”

Step 4: Under that click “Channel Grouping”

Step 5: Click on the “Default Channel Grouping” link

Step 6: You will see a button / option called “Define a new channel”. Click on that

Step 7: Name your new custom marketing channel!

Step 8: Define the rules for your new marketing channel!


For example, if you created a new marketing channel to track the traffic of your monthly newsletter, then the entire process will look something like this:

Step 9: Click “Done” and then “save”.

Now you will see that along with your other channels under ‘default marketing channels’, you will also find “Optimize Smart Newsletter” as a clearly defined channel!

And that’s it! These are your Channels, sources and mediums defined in Google Analytics!