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.

 

Introduction to MCF channel grouping

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

You can see MCF grouping in GA by going to:

#1 Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels > Overview report

#2 Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions report

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

mcf reports

mcf channel grouping1

Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels > Overview report

 

Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions report

Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions report

 

Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels > Top Conversion Paths report

Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels > Top Conversion Paths report

 

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

There are two types of MCF channel groupings:

#1 Default MCF channel grouping

#2 Custom MCF channel grouping

 

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

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

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

 

Default MCF channel grouping

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 direct, organic search, paid search, referral etc marketing channels is 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:

mcf and non mcf channel grouping

Also unlike default non-MCF channel grouping, the default MCF channel grouping can’t be edited.

 

Custom MCF Channel Grouping

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 ‘Custom Channel Groupings’ link in the ‘Admin’ section

 

Creating custom MCF Channel grouping through multi channel funnel reports

You can create custom MCF channel grouping either through 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 default MCF channel Grouping Template and then edit it.

#2 Create a brand new MCF channel grouping from scratch

 

Copy default MCF channel Grouping Template and then edit it

Follow the steps below:

Step-1: Go to Conversions > Multi Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions report and then click on the link ‘Copy MCF Channel Grouping Template’ under the ‘Channel Groupings’ menu:

channel grouping template

Step-2: Rename the channel grouping and edit it. You can edit a 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 Acquisition reports.

 

Step-3: Once you have created the new custom MCF channel grouping (say ‘MCF Advertising), wait for at least 1 to 2 hours (to get new data) and then go to one of the MCF report like ‘Assisted Conversions’ report and then select the new channel MCF grouping as primary dimension from the ‘Channel Groupings’ drop down menu:

apply mcf channel grouping

That’s how you can apply a custom MCF channel grouping to an MCF report like ‘Assisted Conversions’.

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

mcf channel grouping custom

 

 

Create a brand new MCF channel grouping from scratch

Follow the steps below:

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

custom mcf channel grouping

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

Once you have created a custom MCF channel grouping, you can copy or share it from within MCF reports like the one below:

copy share

 

Note(1): You can apply any custom channel grouping to MCF reports as long as the custom channel grouping is created either through MCF reports or through custom Channel Groupings’ link in the ‘Admin’ section (under ‘Personal Tools and Assets’):

custom channel grouping link

Note(2): You can not apply custom channel grouping to a MCF report if that channel grouping is created through Channel Settings > Channel Grouping in the Admin section:

channel grouping settings2

 

Creating custom MCF Channel grouping through ‘Custom Channel Groupings’ link in the Admin section

The process of creating MCF channel grouping via ‘custom channel groupings’ link (under ‘Personal Tools and Assets’) is same as creating non-MCF channel grouping via the same ‘custom channel groupings’ link.

What that means, any custom channel grouping you create via ‘custom channel groupings’ link (under ‘Personal Tools and Assets’) can be applied to both MCF reports and non-MCF reports (acquisition reports):

channel grouping settings1

 

Once you have created the custom MCF channel grouping, you can copy, share or delete it via ‘Actions’ drop down menu:

copy share delete

Note: You can’t create Private MCF channel grouping. You also can’t apply any private channel grouping to a MCF report.

 

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

So these 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

Many marketers/analyst will create and apply branded and non branded advanced segments on keywords report and then toggle between the Goals and e-commerce tabs in order to measure the performance of branded vs. non branded keywords.

While this approach is better than nothing, it won’t produce optimal results. Certainly not fit for an analytics ninja.

Remember Google Analytics uses last non direct touch attribution model by default.

So whatever conversions and ecommerce transactions you see in non-MCF reports are attributed to the last non-direct interactions which directly resulted in goal conversion or ecommerce transaction.

You need much more insight than this.

So head towards your ‘Assisted Conversion’ report and create a new ‘custom channel grouping’:

custom mcf channel grouping

Name it ‘Branded Vs. Non Branded Keywords and define it like the one below’:

 

You define the ‘branded’ and ‘non branded’ channel labels using the same conditions you would normally use while creating advanced segments.

The ‘Branded Keywords label include those keywords which match a certain regular expression.

Once you have defined your labels, apply the new custom channel grouping.

Note down the number of assisted conversions and conversion value of branded and non-branded keywords:

branded non branded keywords

From the chart above, we can see that the non-branded keywords have ‘assisted/last interaction’ value (1.15) higher than that of ‘branded keywords’ (0.35).

Also the ‘assisted/last interaction’ value of ‘non-branded keywords’ is more than 1. That means the ‘non-branded’ keywords are more important in assisting conversions than completing conversions.

Since Google Analytics by default shows the last non direct click conversion values, we may assume that only branded keywords are driving sales and conversions.

If we stop bidding/targeting non-branded keywords, then the assisted conversion value of non-branded keywords will go down and since non-branded keywords are assisting conversions a lot more than branded keywords, the overall sales will eventually go down.

So the rule of thumb is,

determine the assisted conversion value and assisted/last click conversion value of a marketing channel before you discard/label it as ineffective.

Similarly through ‘first interaction analysis’ of the branded and non-branded keywords you can determine which keyword group is initiating more conversions than the other.

Next Read: Using Custom Channels to understand Google Analytics Reports

 

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Himanshu Sharma

Certified web analyst and founder of OptimizeSmart.com

My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

  • Over eleven years' experience in SEO, PPC and web analytics
  • Google Analytics certified
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  • Nominated for Digital Analytics Association Award for Excellence
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I am also the author of three books:

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