October 17, 2022

Which reports in Google Analytics indicate how traffic arrived at a website?

Web traffic source is the metric that has a lot of significance for your website’s health and performance. This indicator lets businesses and webmasters find out how users discovered the site.

Understanding the traffic sources also allows you to identify any changes in the algorithm. Google Analytics can help figure this out since it is a storehouse of this valuable data.

google analytics reports photo

Chapter 1: A is for Acquisition Report

Once you have set up Google Analytics, it is time to analyze the reports. Now, by default, Google Analytics comes with four reports:

  • Acquisition
  • Engagement
  • Monetization
  • Retention

If you want to know where the traffic comes from, whether to your site, or app, the Acquisition report can help.

To access it, you need to click on ‘Reports.’ After that, click on ‘Acquisition’ from the left-side navigation.

Note: If it doesn’t appear in the same place, it might be that an administrator has removed it. You can go to customize report navigation to find it again.

It is a report that provides you with all the data regarding new arrivals via a website or mobile app. By understanding the traffic dimensions, you can figure out the origin of the user before they arrived on your app or site.

Now, it could be from a search engine result or some other sources that users found out about your site. If they found out about your site from Google, then it will show ‘google’ in the Session source dimension.

Traffic Dimensions

Dimensions are attributes Google gives to the user data collected. Google Analytics categorizes the traffic dimensions into three scopes. It gives you a deeper insight into how your users arrived on your site or app.

Note: Exit pages, screens, browsers, and session durations are all examples of dimensions.

User-Scoped Dimensions

As the name suggests, this attribute is given to the data that tells you how your site or app acquired the user in the first place. It is also termed as ‘First User’ or ‘First User Source’ and remains constant.

Session-Scoped Dimensions

Through this attribute, you can determine what led the user to start the session on your website. It is useful for identifying new as well as returning visitors. It is also termed as ‘Session’ or ‘Session Source.’

Event-Scoped Dimensions

It is useful for understanding user behavior, which is the factor that pushed them towards the conversion. This action is also known as ‘Conversion Events.’ Analytics even attributes the non-conversion events. However, for event-sourced dimensions, it simply categorizes them as ‘Source.’

Chapter 2: Overview of Audience Reports

overview of audience reports photo

As a marketer, if you want to learn more about your target audience, the audience reports can be quite helpful. An overview of the audience reports will tell you all about the demographics, behavior, and interests of your audience.

With this comprehensive report, you can significantly improve your marketing campaigns since it lets you categorize your audience. Simultaneously, it also allows you to run campaigns catering to specific audiences.

You can find this by clicking on ‘Report and Analyze’ and then on ‘Audience.’ From there, you need to click on ‘overview of audience reports.’


In this section, you will find the broad outline of all users and their sessions on your site. You can also see how many users created sessions, page views, and more.

You need to go to ‘Audience’ on Google Analytics to find this section. From there, click on ‘Overview.’  


This section categorizes the audience data by their age and gender. It also lets you create ads targeted towards each category.

To track the user demographics, you need to:


Similar to the demographics section, you can access the ‘Interests’ section by navigating to the ‘Audiences’ tab. From there, you need to select ‘Demographics’ and enable the report.

To activate this, you will need three things:

  • A Google Ads account
  • Permission to edit in Google Analytics
  • Authorization to update the privacy policy of your website

There are three categories in ‘Interests’:

  • Affinity
  • In-market segment
  • Others

From these sections, you can better understand the user position within the purchasing funnel.


This section further lets you be aware of the language and location of the users. When focusing on targeted ads, you can filter locations and cultures.

You can use the filters in two ways:

  • Categorize countries into sales regions and track data from a sales region spreading across various countries
  • Track data from smaller region-specific reporting, like states or a specific country

Note: One of the shortcomings of Geographical Data Import is that it produces approximate IP-based locations.


Google Analytics provides much information regarding user behavior to let you understand their interaction with your site or app.

You can learn various things like:

  • Frequency of user visits to your site
  • How often user sessions are repeated
  • Duration of a user staying on your site

Since the user-data is captured via:

  • First-party cookies
  • Generated IDs
  • Software Development Kit (SDK) for mobile applications


When discussing the source of the traffic, knowing which device the user uses to access your site is immensely helpful.

The ‘Technology’ section provides information which can help in this. Your business can even target audiences on the right platform with this information.


You can visit the ‘Mobile’ section from the ‘Audience’ segment. Then click on ‘Overview’ to get this report.


It will redirect you to the Google Analytics page, where data is categorized by Mobile, Desktop, and Tablets.


You can get a better understanding of the relationship between conversion and acquisition from the ‘Acquisition Device’ report.

Based on this data, you will know how many visitors have accessed your site using mobile or other devices. Then you can choose whether to optimize your site for mobile browsers.


Users Flow

You can learn a lot, not just about the origin of your user traffic, but the path they take to come to your website. The ‘Users flow’ section tells you how your users from various browsers, languages, and locations come to find you.


You can navigate to this from the ‘Audience’ section as well. This section of the Audience report gives you a deeper insight into how users from different countries interact with your app or site. You can then adjust the pages on your website according to this analysis.

Chapter 3: Channels

You can get a complete breakdown of the traffic source from the Acquisition Channels Report. Not only that, but you will also get a clearer idea about the performance of your campaigns in terms of conversions and bounce rate.


Channel Vs. Medium

First, you need to understand that channels are not the same as sources or mediums to understand their functions. Many people confuse between them since you will often find a ‘Source/Medium’ report when looking for a channel report.

The information at a glance seems to be overlapping with the ones found under the Channels. Even if the data appears to be similar, Source/Medium has an entirely separate representation.


In fact, Source and Medium are not the same or interchangeable. The place from where the traffic comes to your site is called the source. It denotes the last place your user visited before coming to your website, such as another website or search engine results.

On the other hand, medium denotes the method via which the user arrives at your site. So, the medium further categorizes the traffic sources into smaller groups. To fully interpret the Acquisition reports, you need to have a deeper understanding of the channels.

Default Google Analytics Acquisition Channels


This report will give you an idea of which channels are performing the best for conversion. It helps you optimize the marketing efforts on a specific channel and does not leave it scattered.

Common default channels include:

Organic Search

You can find the traffic that usually comes from search engines, like Google, Bing, etc., through this. The sources for Organic Search are broken down into two categories:

  • Search keywords
  • Search engine queries

If you are focused on boosting the SEO of your website, then this channel report is crucial.

Note: Now, search engine traffic can also be pay-per-click if you have ads showing up on Google or Bing. It appears as organic traffic. However, you need to link your account with Google Ads to see it separately.


This channel tells you about the traffic that comes via a clickable ad on another website. It usually includes banner ads on other blogs or image ads on news sites.

Direct Channel

This report shows traffic that comes from directly pasting your site URL into browsers. You can figure out the performance of your offline campaigning, like ads on print, TV, or radio. That is when users need to memorize the address or manually paste and enter.

Referral Channel

From this report, you find out how well your referral backlinks perform. These are links from other websites that drive traffic to your own. However, some websites do not share this data. So, you can see the traffic count from referral channels under this tab if it does not fall under any other category.

Social Channel

This source will inform you of the specific social media apps or websites that direct users to your site. You can see links from Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn in this section.

Paid Search Channel

All your paid search ads, even from search engine promotions, tend to appear here. The sources are broken down by keywords as well. However, you will see that these keywords are different from the organic search ones and usually consist of a modifier, like a “+” symbol.


It denotes the traffic that comes via links you shared on your email campaigns on Gmail. The traffic can also arrive from follow-up emails or even email signatures.

Other Advertising

If the traffic came from any other paid campaign other than the ones mentioned above, it would be categorized under this segment. However, you can fine-tune this grouping beyond the default settings.

You can manually move some of the sources to another channel. Click on ‘Other’ and see which ones fall under the channel. Then you can create an entirely new set of Source/Medium and shift these sources there.


Chapter 4: Cohort Analysis

Instead of focusing on new visitors, you can try to retain returning visitors and convert them into customers. The ‘Cohort Analysis’ report lets you categorize users based on common characteristics.

Once you click on this report, it will show you a similar graph to the one below.


  • You need to select the ‘by week’ option under the drop-down menu that says ‘Cohort Size.’
  • Next, you need to click on ‘Date Range’ and select ‘Last 12 weeks’.
  • After this, the data will appear similar to this structure:


From this data table, you can find out what percentage of your visitors are returning to your site on a weekly basis.

Now, keep in mind that the left-side column will always show 100%.

On the right-side columns, you can see the percentage by each week and whether it is going up or down. That is the number of people who visit your site even after their first encounter.

While the other reports tell you about the source of new traffic, the Cohort report lets you improve your numbers. You can ensure more people return to your site by constantly analyzing creating more conversions.

You can simply use emails or push notifications to increase this number. Also, publishing more content and transforming the audience into regular subscribers can help.

Chapter 5: Google Ads

For pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, Google Ads reports offer the best way to explore the numbers. This Google Analytics report gives you post-click performance metrics for all your paid campaigns.


Of course, to avail of this, you need to link your Google Analytics account to Google Ads first. Therefore, Google Ads is your best bet for running successful marketing campaigns.

The report lets you know how many users arrived on your website after clicking on your ad.

Then you can optimize your spending by tracking the campaigns, adjusting the bids, and analyzing the performance of the keywords.

Google Analytics performs using the ABC cycle:

  • A is for Acquisition
  • B is for Behavior
  • C is for Conversion

So, you can also get a better idea of user behavior from the frequency of ad clicking. The report tells you about:

  • The performance of each Google Ads campaign
  • The success rate of each keyword
  • User behavior on the ads
  • Conversion rate
  • ROI and RPC measurements


If you were wondering which Google Analytics reports will help you identify the traffic sources to your website, now you will have a clearer idea. The tool provides tons of ways to analyze traffic data. Besides the default report settings, you can also customize and save settings on the tool.

In the end, by understanding the metrics and analyzing the reports, you can make more informed decisions. With these guidelines, you will be able to shortlist the traffic sources for your site and optimize the marketing without hassle.

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