How to split Paid and Organic social traffic in Google Analytics

How to split Paid and Organic social traffic in Google Analytics

By: · Published: February 21, 2019 · Est. reading time: 5 min

It's quite remarkable how Google has done a brilliant job in splitting search traffic into separate channels for Paid and Organic, but totally ignored the same need for splitting social traffic. A hypotesis is that Google is cynically ignoring this so that their very own paid search is the only paid acquisition channel with clear and trustworthy data and therefore leaving marketing professionals preferring this.

Anyway, let's rather jump to how you can fix it so that you can enjoy an informative Google Analytics setup with social traffic channels perfectly split between those you pay for and those that gives you free organic traffic.

The key feature here is called Default Channel Grouping. This solution based on updating the original channel grouping instead of adding a custom one. The reason for this is that Google Analytics then will show this optimized version as soon as you or your colleagues open acquistion reports, instead of each time remember to switch to a custom one before consuming any data. The second key to this solutions is to add all visits that has "paid social" as Medium. "organic social", "social" and visits coming without UTM parameters will go into the "Organic Social". My UTM Builder will automatically set the correct medium value each time you use it to genereate an URL. Now, lets look at the configuration.

Important to know before proceeding editing Default Channel Grouping:

To split your Social channel into Paid and Organic, follow these steps:

  1. Start editing Default Channel Grouping in Google Analytics by going to Admin > Your view > Channel settings > Channel grouping
  2. Create a backup by duplicating the one called Default Channel Grouping
    Press Edit and Copy. Name it Backup Default Channel Grouping
    We create this so that we keep a secondary version of original settings intact, just in case
  3. Open the original called Default Channel Grouping (not the backup) by clicking Action and Edit
  4. Add Paid Social How to split Paid and Organic social traffic in Google Analytics
    Press Define a new channel, name it Paid Social.
    Select Medium as a dimension. And "Is one of"
    Add the follow three on separate lines beneath each other: "paid social", "paid-social" and "paidsocial"
    Select a color and press Save. Adding three in stead of one is just a safety in case someone writes it in a different way
  5. Add Organic Social How to split Paid and Organic social traffic in Google Analytics
    Press Define a new channel, name it Paid Social
    Select System defined channel as dimension and matches "Social"
    Press OR to add a second rule
    Select Medium as a dimension. And "Is one of"
    Add the follow three on separate lines beneath each other: "organic social", "organic-social", "organicsocial"
    Select a color and press Save
  6. Rename the original group called Social to Social (legacy) and make sure that this rule is below the new social channels in the numeric listed order
  7. Update all your traffic genereating links with by using My UTM Builder. This is crucial for separating out traffic by the help of Medium, but it also good to clean up organic links and to give all naming there a fresh clean start

Congrats, that's it!

You will now enjoy a future where you finally can easily distinguish social media visitors between what you put your dollars on and those you get for free from sharing and so on

Consistency in naming UTM parameters is key for clean and healthy reports in Google Analytics. Following a fixed system helps you or your team to stay consistent. My UTM Builder is built for this purpose and is of course compatible with the recommended solution above You might think that this is only an issue for established brands, but that is not true. As long as you got any returning visitors, Direct could miss one and Organic could gain one.


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Wish you a happy analytical day!