Uncover Badass Exposers with Google Analytics’ Multi-Channel Funnels

In late August 2011, Google Analytics announced that it would be rolling out its new multi-channel funnel reports for all users, after spending a few months in an early pilot test. If you haven't yet checked the new features out, have a gander at this explanatory video, otherwise, feel free to skip right past. Google explains what's actually going on here way better than I could type it out for you:

In this post, I want to help you find the badass exposers in your marketing mix.

Exposers vs. Closers

In digital marketing, "exposers" are those channels that are introducing a potential customer to your website. Conversely, "closers" are the channels that directly led to a conversion. Knowing our closers are incredibly important, and its largely what we focus on when we dive into our web analytics. But for a vast majority of businesses, focusing solely on the closers might be ignoring channels that are instrumental in bringing you truly new business.

In standard Google Analytics reports, the last non-direct channel in a conversion path is given all of the credit.

Standard GA reports
In our standard eCommerce report, we're looking at the sources/mediums/referrals/keywords/etc. that were the last interaction.

Google Analytics' MCFs are here to help us refocus on our exposers. But...

What is a badass exposer?

A badass exposer is the technical term being bandied about in prestigious higher-education marketing programs. I'll attempt to distill it down for you: Badass Exposers are those channels that are introducing the RIGHT set of potential customers to your brand. You see, because we're looking at the very beginning of a potential conversion path, there can be plenty of exposers that aren't really bringing the right kind of potential customer. "We'll take them, but we're not expecting much."

Frank the Flasher costume
Not what I mean when I say "Exposer". Get your head out of the gutter.

Let's take a very real, and very meta example. In writing this post, I knew I had to make a reference to a flasher as exposer joke. So I went a'googlin' for a photo of a flasher. The keyword "Flasher costume" brought me to this costume on halloweencostumes.com. I ganked the image and left (I did give them a link!). In this case, the keyword "Flasher costume" is acting in the exposure role. But a badass exposer? No. I'll probably never go back to halloweencostumes.com (I'm sure it's a fine site).

So what's an example of a badass exposer, and how do we find them? With the help of Google Analytics' Multi-Channel Funnels and some conversion segmentation, let's look at some specific examples.

Badass Exposer - Referrals

First, let's set up a conversion segment in GA's MCFs. Conversion segments are just like advanced segments in regular reports and are found in the same physical location.

conversion segment location

For referral analysis, I think the following custom segment works best, but you may need to weed out some oddities specific to your site:

custom segment for referrals

With this segment applied, we can now take a look at the conversion paths that started with a referral (and was not social - GA classifies social network visits as both 'referral' AND 'social network' by default).

Try taking a look at the 'Top Conversion Paths' report and selecting "Source Path" from the primary dimension selector.

referral - conversion path reports
Thanks Jonathon!

Just scrolling through this list might uncover quite a few badass exposers. After all, this is a list of all the conversion paths in your date range that started with a referral. If this view is a bit messy you might want to export into Excel, isolate the first interaction, and make a pivot table to get the totals.

Remember, regular GA reports will give credit to the last non-direct source, so these badass exposers' credit is erased when the user interacts via another channel before converting. A very common scenario: User visits via referral, eventually returns via organic brand name search, converts. That exposer gets no credit and organic steals it all!

Here's a real example from Distilled's analytics:

non-branded organic conversion segment
Under normal GA circumstances, anthonypensabene.com would receive no credit for this conversion

Potential Action

After finding a list of your referring badass exposers, approach them about an ongoing guest posting series, arrange a paid advertising campaign, offer them product review, or just thank them! After all, they're sending you customers that eventually convert!

Badass Exposer - Organic Keywords

Let's take a look at two ways to uncover some badass exposers from the organic medium.

Brand vs Non-Brand Organic

Create either a custom conversion segment or custom channel grouping that separates branded organic searches from your regular organic keywords.

non-branded organic conversion segment
This might take some fancy regular expressions to weed out branded terms

With this conversion segment applied, we can take a very similar approach as above. Instead, select "Keyword Path" as your primary dimension and scroll through your list. Again, you might do well to export to Excel, isolate, and pivot.

change the primary dimension

Head vs Mid vs Tail Keywords

Inherent to the concept of the long-tail keyword is the increase in conversion rate toward the tail. The visitor arriving as a result of a search for 'shoes' is much less likely to convert than the one entering from 'nike air basketball dunk sports supreme - amazing edition plus". But if some general, high-volume keywords are consistently exposing users to your site that eventually convert via other channels (or a longer-tail keyword), then you should know about it. Those are your badass exposer keywords.

One quick and dirty way to find these little champs is through an advanced conversion segment that only shows conversion paths that began with a 1 or 2 keyword phrase. Sure, it's slightly flawed as a measure of head/mid/tail volume, but at least its quick - and if it finds you badass exposers, who cares? Try this advanced conversion segment:

change the primary dimension
That regular expression for a 1 or 2 word phrase is ^[^ ]+( [^ ]+){0,1}$. Oh and don't forget to get that (not provided) pest out of there.

Again, setting "Keyword Path" as the primary dimension and scrolling through your conversion paths should highlight a few.

Potential Action

Since SEO can be such a time consuming practice, it can hurt to spend time link building and optimizing to rank for a particular head keyword, only to find that the keyword doesn't convert at a level that was worth the time and money investment. However, if that head keyword was actually acting as a badass exposer, then it might be a bit easier to convince yourself, your boss, or your client that another SEO campaign will bring more ROI.

Badass Exposer - Paid Channels

Since most paid channels will allow us to control the conversion path a bit, finding badass exposers for paid channels is perhaps the easiest.

Take AdWords for example. A well-structured AdWords accounts has separate campaigns targeted different kinds of visitors. We have our ads targeting 'shoes', but we also have our ads targeting the "Toms Hippy Hipping Hipster - Portlandia Edition" keywords. Because GA's MCFs allow us to target according to AdWords campaign or keywords, we can find out if those expensive high-volume, low-conversion campaigns are actually acting as badass exposers.

AdWords and Multi-Channel Funnels

Other paid channels like comparison shopping, banner ad networks, and affiliates would be pretty simple to segment as well because of utm parameters on destination URLs.

Potential Actions

Those high-volume, low-converting ads can be pretty expensive. But if they're consistently exposing you to good customers, increasing ad spend for head terms may be a great long-term move.

In Conclusion

This is just the tip of the iceberg, really! Proper attribution modeling can help you uncover badass assisters that you may not have known about. We'll save that for another post.

If we want to do content strategy analysis, we COULD actually look for badass exposing CONTENT on our site. Which blog posts on your site are badass exposers? If you can identify a few, you can refine your content strategy moving forward.

And we haven't even talked about social, which is most often acting in the exposure role.

Have you done any analysis on your exposers? Let me know what you think!

Get blog posts via email