Getting UTMs right for GA4's default channel groups

Default Channel Groups allow you to group traffic into overall groups. For example, instead of looking at all referring sites, you can simply look at Referrals. This makes it simpler to get an initial overview of your traffic and conversions and where they come from.

In Universal Analytics, you had the freedom to modify your channel groupings. You could create new channels (e.g. Paid Social) or modify the rules of existing channels. But in GA4, it’s no longer possible to customise your channel groupings.

GA4 - just as Universal Analytics - have a clear set of “rules” that determine how traffic is placed into a specific channel. And if a session’s referral data doesn’t match those rules, the session is placed in the ‘Unassigned’ bucket. Just as Universal Analytics would place it in the “(Other)” channel.

Since it’s no longer possible to modify the channel rules, you have to take care when setting up UTM parameters on your links - if you want sessions placed in their proper channels, that is.

##GA4’s default channels

Google Analytics 4 uses some slightly different channels than Universal Analytics did. Traffic is placed into certain channels when the traffic matches certain criteria, but these are the channels:

  • Paid Search
  • Paid Video (new)
  • Paid Social (new)
  • Audio (new)
  • Paid Other
  • Paid Shopping (new)
  • Organic Shopping (new)
  • Organic Social (new)
  • Email
  • Affiliates
  • Referral
  • SMS (new)
  • Mobile Push Notifications (new)

See Google’s official documentation for a detailed explanation.