It has been a while now since Google Analytics made their multichannel module available (MFC, for Multi-Channel Funnel). Naturally, it was immediately declared the best thing since sliced bread, as with anything Google releases. Multi-channel analysis, and especially everything surrounding attribution models, has been all the rage in Online Marketing for some time now. With such diversity in channels in which marketers can invest now, those questions are absolutely relevant. Heck, if I can know with a good level of certainty where to spend my budget, and especially where not to spend it, I want to know!
Still, I am not totally comfortable with Google Analytics new module for various reasons. I will review a few of those points.
First, experienced digital analysts will know that any multi-session analysis is always very much at risk for a simple reason we’ve always lived with: cookie deletion. As long as we were focusing on the single session, you know, “come to the site, look at stuff, and covert or not”, we were OK. But now with the need to go full purchase cycle, over multiple sessions, through several possible sources, we are more than ever susceptible to cookie deletion impacts. I don’t want to start a debate about deletion rates; you probably know enough about your target audience to estimate how high it’s happening for you. Also, you need to factor in the typical purchase cycles; the longer it takes your customers to make up their mind, the more chances they’ve had to delete their cookie, oh and yes, come again via other computers, mobile devices, etc.
Right here we could call it quit.
Then there’s what Google Analytics declares as being the source of a visit. It has been rather puzzling, to say the least. By that I mean GA does not always assign a referrer according to what logic would require. I would assume that the source of a particular visit should be just that; what brought the visitor to the site this time. Still, GA will attribute a visit, say Organic Search Engine, if the visitor has that reference associated with his/her cookie, even though this time s/he came directly to the site. However, Justin Cutroni from Google tells me that it is not the same situation with MCF, that Google does something to attribute the visit to Direct. Good then, we just wish they would apply it to the regular analytics reports.
Then there is Organic Search. It’s been a known fact for five years now (and I extensively wrote about it then) that many, many people make use of Google search engine as a way to get back to sites they already been to. Look at yourself: do you type a site URL directly in the browser field theses days, or just type the company’s name in Google (which is probably in the launch page of your browser), knowing it will bring you there, even if you make a typo? It works so well, we don’t mind the extra click we need to get to the site. So, in the type of multi-session purchase cycle I discussed above, Organic Search found in the last steps are most probably people coming back, not searching. You should then filter for branded search terms to have a more accurate view of Organic Search contribution to the MFC. Generic, product category-related terms early in the cycle denotes true search, acquisition potential, whereas branded-term search visits toward the end of the purchase cycle are from people coming back with a higher probability to convert. However, such visits should not be credited with the conversion/revenue in an attribution model, I believe.
Finally, think of all the possible combinations in steps. I mean, look at this:
These are the top 10 patterns (or combinations) discovered by the tool in one instance. What kind of decisions can you really make? And I am not even adding even more complexity by bringing up the client segmentation question!
Sure, I guess we have to commend Google Analytics for at least trying. But, as of today, I am wondering if we are not just chasing ghosts.
And you? What do you think? Am I too negative?