Understanding MCF Channel Groupings in Google Analytics

Last Updated: May 20, 2022

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 (Multi-Channel Funnel) channel groupings – channel groupings applied to MCF GA reports.

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

What is an MCF channel grouping in Google Analytics?

An MCF channel grouping is a rule-based grouping of marketing channels that are used in multi-channel funnel reports:

multi channel funnels report

MCF grouping is used to show how different marketing channels are assisting conversions and/or directly completing conversions.

Why do you need MCF Channel grouping?

In order to correctly understand the performance of your marketing channels in MCF reports, you need to create and use your own MCF channel grouping.

By using MCF grouping you can quickly change the way Google Analytics labels and aggregates the incoming traffic.

You can get a better understanding of a customer’s purchase journey and the channels which are really driving sales and conversions. This insight can later help you to determine the most effective marketing channels for investment.

Where to find MCF channel groupings in Google Analytics?

You can see MCF channel groupings in Google Analytics as a primary dimension by navigating to the following reports one by one and then looking at the very first column of the data table:

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

MCF Channel Groupings in Google Analytics

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

Assisted conversions report

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

Top conversion paths report

Types of MCF channel groupings in Google Analytics

There are two types of MCF channel groupings:

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

What is the default MCF channel grouping in Google Analytics?

The Default MCF channel grouping is a rule-based grouping of default marketing channels that is applied to MCF reports 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:

default MCF and non mcf channel grouping

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 in Google Analytics?

The custom MCF channel grouping is a user-defined MCF channel grouping.

You can create a custom MCF channel grouping at the view level or the user level.

If you want your custom MCF channel grouping to be visible to all the users of your GA reporting view, then create the channel grouping at the view level.

If you want your custom MCF channel grouping to be visible only to the user who created it, then create the custom channel grouping at the user level.

When a custom MCF channel grouping is created at the user level, it is called private MCF channel grouping.

You create a new custom MCF channel grouping at the view level in the same way as you would create a new non-MCF custom channel grouping at the view level.

Similarly, you create a new custom MCF channel grouping at the user level in the same way as you would create a new non-MCF custom channel grouping at the user level.

However, you can also create a new custom MCF channel grouping through MCF reports by using the following two methods:

  1. Using a template to create a new custom MCF channel grouping.
  2. Creating a brand new custom MCF channel grouping from scratch.

How to create a custom MCF channel grouping through MCF reports

You can create custom MCF channel grouping either through Assisted Conversions report or through the 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.

Top conversion paths report 2

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

copy mcf channel grouping template

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

Rename the channel grouping and then edit it

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 the Google Analytics 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:

mcf advertising2

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

mcf advertising3

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 the ‘Custom Channel Grouping BETA‘ link (under ‘Personal Tools and Assets‘) in the Admin section of your GA reporting view:

custom channel grouping beta
mcf advertising4

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

You can create a brand new custom MCF channel grouping from scratch via the ‘Assisted Conversions’ report.

Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Login to your GA account and then navigate to your main reporting view.

Step-2: 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:

Create a Custom Channel grouping..

Step-3: Name your new channel grouping and then add marketing channels to it one by one (by clicking on the link ‘Define a new Channel‘:

Define a new Channel 3

Step-4: Drag and drop the channels one by one to specify the order in which they should apply (optional).

Step-5: Scroll down to the bottom of your screen and then click on the ‘Save‘ button.

Step-6: Again click on the drop-down menu called ‘Channel Groupings‘ and then click on the name of your new custom MCF channel grouping. 

my custom mcf channel grouping

Note(1): When you create a new MCF channel grouping from within an MCF report, it is also automatically listed under the ‘Custom Channel Grouping BETA‘ link in the GA admin area, under the ‘PERSONAL TOOLS & ASSETS‘ section:

my custom mcf channel grouping 1

Note(2): You can apply any custom channel grouping to MCF reports as long as the custom channel grouping is created either from within MCF reports or through the ‘Custom Channel Grouping BETA’ link in the GA admin area.

However, you cannot apply that custom channel grouping to an MCF report which was created through ‘Channel Settings’ > ‘Channel Grouping’ in the GA admin area.

custom channel grouping beta

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 the ‘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 following the steps below:

Step-1: Navigate to the ‘Custom Channel Grouping BETA‘ link in the GA admin area, under the ‘PERSONAL TOOLS & ASSETS‘ section:

custom channel grouping beta link

Step-2: Either click on the name of the MCF channel grouping or click on the ‘Edit‘ option from the ‘Actions‘ drop-down menu:

edit mcf channel grouping

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 also copy an existing MCF channel grouping via the ‘Custom Channel Grouping BETA’ link. Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Navigate to the ‘Custom Channel Grouping BETA‘ link in the GA admin area, under the ‘PERSONAL TOOLS & ASSETS‘ section:

custom channel grouping beta link

Step-2: Click on the ‘Copy‘ option from the ‘Actions‘ drop-down menu:

copy mcf channel grouping

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?

To delete a custom MCF channel grouping follow the steps below:

Step-1: Navigate to the ‘Custom Channel Grouping BETA‘ link in the GA admin area, under the ‘PERSONAL TOOLS & ASSETS‘ section:

custom channel grouping beta link

Step-2: Click on the ‘Delete‘ option from the ‘Actions‘ drop-down menu:

delete mcf channel grouping

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 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:

promote mcf advertising

Then click on the ‘Promote’ button:

promote this custom channel grouping to view level2

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:

promoted mcf advertising

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: Navigate to the ‘Custom Channel Grouping BETA‘ link in the GA admin area, under the ‘PERSONAL TOOLS & ASSETS‘ section:

custom channel grouping beta link

Step-2: Click on the ‘Share‘ option from the ‘Actions‘ drop-down menu:

share mcf channel grouping

Step-3: Select ‘Share template link‘ and then click on the ‘Share‘ button:

select a method for sharing object

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

Step-4: Copy the template URL and then share it with others:

copy the url below to share

Understanding MCF channel grouping rules

If you recall, MCF channel grouping is a rule-based grouping of marketing channels that are used in multi-channel funnel reports.

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.

However, since you can not edit the default MCF channel grouping, you can not:

  1. Change the order of the default MCF channel grouping rules.
  2. Add or remove a marketing channel to the default MCF channel grouping.

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’:

not provided keywords

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:

assisted conversions report

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

create a custom channel grouping

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

advanced keywords analysis
not provided keywords channel
organic branded keywords channel

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.

organic non branded keywords channel

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

paid branded keywords channel

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

paid non branded keywords channel

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 :

advanced keywords analysis grouping
advanced keywords analysis2

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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