Understanding MCF Channel Groupings in Google Analytics

This article is in conjunction with the articles: understanding channels in Google Analytics and understanding channel grouping in Google Analytics 

The knowledge acquired through these articles will help you greatly in understanding the present article. So make sure you read them first if you have not already.

In the present article, I will explain in great detail about MCF channel groupings and how to create and use them. 

In the context of multi-channel funnel reports, there are two categories of channel groupings in GA:

#1 MCF channel groupings – channel groupings applied to MCF GA reports.

#2 Non-MCF channel groupings – channel groupings applied to standard (non-MCF) GA reports.

What is an MCF channel grouping in Google Analytics?

An MCF (Multi-Channel Funnel) channel grouping is a rule-based grouping of marketing channels.

You can see MCF channel grouping in Google Analytics by navigating to:

#1 Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Overview report:

mcf channel grouping1

#2 Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions report:

#3 Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Top Conversion Paths report:

Note: MCF channel grouping appears as a primary dimension in MCF reports.

Types of MCF channel groupings

There are two types of MCF channel groupings:

  1. Default MCF channel grouping
  2. Custom MCF channel grouping

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What is the default MCF channel grouping in Google Analytics?

The default MCF channel grouping is similar to the default non-MCF channel grouping in the sense that both channel groupings define default marketing channels in the same way:

For example, the definition of marketing channels like direct, organic search, paid search, referral, etc is the same for both MCF channel grouping and non-MCF channel grouping.

However,

Default MCF channel grouping is not the default channel grouping applied to multi-channel funnel reports.

What that means is that, if you edit the default non-MCF channel grouping, it will not automatically update the default MCF Channel grouping. Also unlike the default non-MCF channel grouping, the default MCF channel grouping can not be edited.

What is a custom MCF channel grouping?

A custom MCF channel grouping is a rule-based grouping of custom marketing channels.

There are two ways to create custom MCF channel grouping in GA:

  1. Through MCF reports
  2. Through the ‘Custom Channel Groupings’ link in the ‘Admin’ section

How to create a custom MCF channel grouping through multi-channel funnel reports

You can create custom MCF channel grouping either through Assisted Conversions report or through Top Conversion Paths report.

There are two methods to create custom MCF channel groupings via multi-channel funnel reports:

#1 Copy the default MCF channel grouping template and then edit it.

#2 Create a brand new MCF channel grouping from scratch

Method#1: Copy the default MCF Channel Grouping Template and then edit it

Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Navigate to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Top Conversions Paths report in your main reporting view.

Step-2: Click on the link ‘Copy MCF Channel Grouping Template‘ under the ‘Channel Groupings‘ drop-down menu:

Step-3: Rename the channel grouping, edit it and then click on the ‘Save’ button:

You can edit the channel grouping by:

  1. Redefining an existing marketing channel(s)
  2. Adding a new marketing channel(s)
  3. Removing an existing marketing channel(s)

To learn more about editing a channel grouping, read this article: Understanding Channel Grouping in Google Analytics

Note: You can also apply custom MCF Channel groupings to GA Acquisition reports.

Step-4: Once you have created the new custom MCF channel grouping, wait for at least 1 to 2 hours (to get new data).

Step-5: Navigate to one of the MCF reports like ‘Top Conversions Paths‘ report and then click on the name of the new custom MCF channel grouping (in our case ‘MCF Advertising‘) from the ‘Channel Groupings‘ drop-down menu:

You should now be able to see the new custom MCF channel grouping applied to your report as a primary dimension:

That’s how you can create and apply a custom MCF channel grouping to an MCF report like ‘Top Conversions Paths‘.

Note: Any MCF channel groupings you created via MCF reports will also be available through ‘Custom Channel Grouping BETA‘ link (under ‘Personal Tools and Assets‘) in the Admin section of your GA reporting view:

 

Method #2: Create a brand new MCF channel grouping from scratch via a Multi-Channel Funnel report

Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Navigate to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions report and then click on the link ‘Create a custom channel grouping…‘ under the ‘Channel Groupings‘ menu:

 

Step-2: Name the custom channel grouping and add marketing channels to it one by one as explained in the article: Understanding Channel Grouping in Google Analytics

Note(1): Once you have created a custom MCF channel grouping, you can copy it from within MCF reports by clicking on the ‘copy’ button:

Note(2): You can apply any non-MCF custom channel grouping to MCF reports. Likewise, you can apply any MCF custom channel grouping to non-MCF reports.

How to create a custom MCF channel grouping through the ‘Custom Channel Groupings BETA’ link

The process of creating the MCF channel grouping via the ‘Custom Channel Groupings BETA‘ link (under ‘Personal Tools and Assets‘) is the same as creating non-MCF channel grouping via the same link.

What that means, any custom channel grouping you create via ‘Custom Channel Groupings BETA’ link can be applied to both MCF reports and non-MCF reports (like Acquisition reports).

How to edit a custom MCF channel grouping in Google Analytics

Once you have created and saved a new custom MCF channel grouping, you can edit it by either clicking on its name or by clicking on the ‘Edit‘ option from the ‘Actions‘ drop-down menu:

How to copy a custom MCF channel grouping

If you want to create a new custom MCF channel grouping by using an existing channel grouping as a foundation then copy the channel grouping.

You can copy an existing MCF channel grouping by clicking on the ‘Copy‘ option from the ‘Actions‘ drop-down menu:

Once you clicked on the ‘copy‘ link, a new custom MCF channel grouping will automatically be created for you. Then you can rename it and edit it by adding or removing the marketing channels or changing the definition of the channels.

How to delete a custom MCF channel grouping

You can delete a custom MCF channel grouping by clicking on the ‘Delete‘ option from the ‘Actions‘ drop-down menu:

Note: You can not delete the default MCF Channel grouping.

How to convert a private custom MCF channel grouping into a view-level custom channel grouping

The custom MCF channel grouping created at the user level is called the private custom MCF channel grouping. 

By default, any new custom MCF channel grouping you create (via the MCF reports) is available only to you. In other words, by default any new custom MCF channel grouping, you create is created at a user level and is a private custom MCF channel grouping.

If you want your new custom MCF channel grouping to be available to all the users of your reporting view then click on the ‘Promote‘ link from the ‘Actions‘ drop-down menu:

Then click on the ‘Promote’ button:

Promoting a custom MCF channel grouping creates a copy of it at the view level.

Now if you navigate to Channel Settings > Channel Grouping in your GA Admin area you can see a copy of your private custom MCF channel grouping:

If later you delete this new MCF channel grouping at the view level, it will not automatically delete the corresponding MCF channel grouping at the user level.

Note(1): The promoted Custom MCF Channel Grouping will count toward the view’s limit of 50 Channel Groupings.

Note(2): You can not promote the default MCF Channel grouping.

How to share a custom MCF channel grouping

You can share your custom MCF channel grouping with other users by sharing the template link. When you share a Custom MCF Channel Grouping, only the configuration information is shared. Your analytics data is not shared.

To share a custom MCF channel grouping, follow the steps below:

Step-1: Click on the ‘Share‘ option from the ‘Actions‘ drop-down menu:

Step-2: Select ‘Share template link’ and then click on the ‘Share’ button:

Note: If you want to share your custom MCF channel grouping with the general public then select the ‘Share in Solutions Gallery‘ option.

Step-3: Copy the template URL and then share it with others:

Understanding MCF channel grouping rules

If you recall, MCF channel grouping is a rule-based grouping of marketing channels.

So what are these rules?

These rules are the same rules for non-MCF channel grouping (as described in this article: Understanding Channel Grouping in Google Analytics).

So the MCF channel grouping rules are also executed in the order in which they are defined. And you can also change the order of these rules by simply dragging and dropping marketing channels.

Case study- Measuring the performance of branded vs non-branded keywords

Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Make sure that your Google Analytics property is not suffering from not provided keywords issues. Not provided keyword is a keyword without ‘keyword referral data’:

In order to unlock not provided keywords in your Google Account, you would need to use a tool like ‘Keyword Hero’.

Without using such a tool, you would have a hard time measuring the performance of branded vs non-branded keywords as there would be little to no keywords data available to analyze.

Step-2: Navigate to the ‘Assisted Conversion’ report (under ‘Conversions’ > ‘Multi-Channels Funnels’) in your main reporting view:

Step-3: Click on the link ‘Create a custom channel grouping…‘ under the ‘Channel Groupings‘ drop-down menu:

Step-4: Name your new custom MCF channel grouping ‘Advanced Keywords Analysis‘ and then define it like the one below:

Note: Organic B Keywords stands for organic branded keywords. Use your brand name in the text box. The ‘Branded Keywords’ include those keywords which match a certain regular expression.

Note: Organic NB Keywords stands for organic non-branded keywords. Use your brand name in the text box.

Note: Paid B Keywords stands for paid branded keywords. Use your brand name in the text box.

Note: Paid NB Keywords stands for paid non-branded keywords. Use your brand name in the text box.

Step-5: Click on the ‘Save’ button.

Step-6: Navigate to your ‘Assisted Conversions‘ report and then apply the new ‘Advanced Keywords Analysis‘ MCF channel grouping to it :

 

From the data table above, we can conclude that the paid non-branded keywords (Paid NB Keywords) have ‘Assisted/Last Click or Direct Conversion’ value of 0.70 which is lower than the ‘Assisted/Last Click or Direct Conversion’ value of 1.22 for paid branded keywords (Paid B Keywords).

What that means is that the paid non-branded keywords are less important in assisting conversions than directly completing conversions. Whereas, the paid branded keywords are more important in assisting conversions than directly completing conversions.

So if we stop bidding/targeting branded keywords, then the assisted conversion value of branded paid keywords may go down and the overall Google Ads sales may eventually go down.

This is the kind of insight you can get by creating a custom MCF channel grouping.

Next Read: Using Custom Channels to understand Google Analytics Reports

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