What is source and medium in Google Analytics? Here you have it explained!

What is source and medium in Google Analytics?  Here you have it explained!

Source and Medium, something very, very common in the world of Marketing and digital analytics. Something that you will surely have heard of and even something where you will have focused attention when looking at data.

Source and medium, something that can be controlled and labeled at will, to obtain data that is much closer to reality of our traffic acquisition actions.

Ains my dear source and a half. An inseparable couple, there watching them, always holding hands, so alike, so accomplices, so united. You rarely see one without seeing the other, or one without the other. Medium is she, source is he. He is she, she is he…

As it happens with the twins that went to your school, practically the same for everyone except for you, who already know them since they were little and the differences, Source and Medium are perfectly different concepts for a web analyst that are often confused by the rest of us mortals..

But what about you? Do you understand the real difference between one and the other or one and the other? Really?

Wait wait! Even if you think it’s apple… (Ok, I’m sorry).

No, seriously, don’t go, wait…it’s not apple (oh, sorry).

Really! You will think that this post is a joke, that it does not deserve the pear (Hahahaha sorry) dedicate a post to explain the difference between one and the other but… do you really believe it? Because I have seen so many different sources and media, especially when using the UTMS labeling of Google analytics which I think needs to be explained.

If you don’t believe it, take this test. Enter Google Data Studio and make a report of all the media and sources that you have used so far. Is there a consistency? Really? I usually see a lot of disorder in this test…

Difference between source and medium in Google Analytics

Let’s explain it very simply, okay? Imagine that you live in Archena and an old friend from Madrid comes to visit you. He has told you that he leaves early and that he will arrive around 8:30 p.m., that by car it will take 4 hours or so.

Where does it come from? From Madrid. As it comes? By car.

Source: Madrid. Medium: Car.

As simple as that.

What does Source mean in Google Analytics?

The source in Google Analytics refers to where a visit comes from. If it comes from Google, Bing, fulanito’s blog, Facebook, Active Campaign or Acumbamail, etc.

It indicates a very direct relationship where the visit comes from. Sometimes, the visit does not come “from anywhere” because it originates from our browser. Because the user writes the address directly in the browser, because he clicks on a shortcut, etc. In this case, the source is considered “Direct Traffic”.

Do you get it? Think about “where does the visit come from?

What does Medium mean in Google Analytics?

While the source is where it comes from, the medium responds to a more general classification. The how.

If we look at it from a hierarchical point of view, the Medium responds to the category that encompasses the source.

There are a number of general or more common means:

  • organic traffic.
  • paid traffic.
  • Reference (links from other websites)
  • Email (links from an email marketing tool or from Gmail, Hotmail, etc.).
  • Social. Links from social networks.
  • None. Well direct traffic. Hahaha.

Isn’t it true that these media sound familiar to you?

What is a channel in Google Analytics?

A channel is an association of several sources with the same medium..

For example, “organic traffic” is a channel that brings together the sources Google, Bing and Yahoo (hahaha) and all of them with the organic medium. Do you take it?

The paid traffic channel could link the sources Facebook and Google when the medium is paid.

Why is it important to understand the difference between Source and Medium in Google Analytics?

As trivial as this difference may seem to you, it is important. It is worth that you can enter the Analytics reports, in a standard installation, and review the information (and even understand it) without needing to know this difference.

The problem comes when your project grows or you get serious with the measurement. When you start doing campaigns here, campaigns there. When you want to know which channels bring you more traffic or are more profitable.

And, above all, when there are several teams carrying out actions and labeling the traffic, each one following a non-unified criteria…

How to avoid the clutter in Google Analytics traffic tagging

Exact! This is where I wanted to get to. I have found a lot, lots of disorders when it comes to tagging visits and campaigns with the famous UTM links.

It’s normal, don’t worry. It is normal because not all team members have the same knowledge of analytics. It’s normal because there are very good creatives making ads but they don’t master the area of ​​analytics. It is normal because not all of us have even learned from the same people.

And the end result is that, despite knowing that the links are better labeled, unified criteria are not applied and the parent disorder arrives.

What is UTM link tagging in Google Analytics?

In most cases, Google Analytics is capable of identifying the source and means of each visit that comes to us. If it comes to us from another website, try to identify it and determine the source and means.

But what if we want a classification that Analytics doesn’t understand? Well, we have the possibility of building links in which we tell Analytics how to classify that visit.

I think it’s more or less clear, right? Is add some parameters to the url so that you tell analytics how to classify that visit. Take a look at this Analytics help page to learn how to generate and test those urls.

analytics generator

Use the Analytics link generator tool or better a Google Sheet?

The main problem, as we have said before, is not that all the team members who carry out traffic capture actions tag the links, because most dedicated professionals on the margin know what UTM links are.

The problem is also not how to create the links, as the Analytics UTM link generation tool is very easy to find.

The main problem is that there is no global criteria on how to label those links, what names to give to each source, how to define the medium or even how to call the campaigns..

And that leads to the big mess we talked about at the beginning. My recommendation, in this case, is that instead of each person using the tool as they wish, there is at least one unified record of the company that collects all the links generated.

There are many Google Sheets templates for generating UTM links. I personally like this one (although I actually ended up making my own).

The advantage of keeping this record is that it is always contextualized and it is clearly seen when a common criterion is being followed.

Last conclusions

Well then up to here we come with this topic whose conclusions can be summarized in:

  • It is important to label the links to always know where the visits come from and add one more point of information.
  • When labeling the links, it is better to follow a common criteria that we can achieve by keeping a general record through a spreadsheet.
  • An important part of this criteria is understanding the difference between source and medium in Google Analytics.
  • Source is where the visit comes from.
  • Medium is the means of transportation or the way the visit has to arrive.
  • A channel is a grouping of several sources that share a common medium.
  • If you’re in a hurry, wait, it’s not apple.

really trivial? It may be a very simple concept but I think it is worth understanding it from the bottom, so as not to make mistakes. and, I am convinced, the next time you are going to generate a url with utms you will remember this definition… Don’t you think?

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Open chat
Scan the code
Hello 👋
Can we help you?