People behave in mysterious ways. For instance let’s imagine the expected path someone takes when noticing your paid advert in Google. This is how you would “think” the series of events would play out.

First – search Google looking for what they want.
Second – see your advert.
Third – read your ad and agree silently to themselves that this is worth investigating more.
Fourth – click your ad.
Fifth – read the copy on your web page and decide whether to take action.
Sixth – either take action and complete form or leave and start looking again.

Six logical steps that you would assume many – if not all – would take when clicking away on your paid advertising. Now let’s look at a relatively new report from Google Analytics that shows the actual paths this group took. Please note the graphic to follow. On the left you have collection of traffic sources that the group used and on the right the conversions each delivered. The first thing you should notice that there is no group that did what you thought it did, e.g. visit from paid advertising one time only and then convert (line 2 is the closest but these people came into the site after clicking on two paid ads).

Channel Grouping Path

Also take the time to look at line 7.  Here the visitor arrived from an organic search (the middle non paid area of Google) then returned to the site by clicking a paid ad in Google AdWords and finally returned to convert from another organic search result.  Think of it as an organic – paid sandwich with a nice conversion at the end.

Or how about Line 5.  The visitor starts with coming directly to the website – so they must know its URL but then returns to convert from a paid advertisement.  It seems that visitors are using every traffic stream available to them to come and go before making a decision and converting.

You can find this report in your Google Analytics account under the “Conversions” area in the section marked “Top Conversion Paths” (be aware that nothing will show if you don’t have any goals set up on your website for the paths to relate to).

So other than disproving our original theory of how paid advertising visitors behaved, what else does this information reveal?

First off is the obvious one of how different types of traffic can work together for a visitor to help them convert.   Digging further into this – as we did in the earlier graphic – can be especially handy when reviewing the merits of paid traffic streams like Google AdWords.  For instance Lines 1, 8 and 9 are all instances where paid traffic went onto boost both organic traffic and organic conversions.  Likewise lines 3 and 10 show a boost in direct traffic and direct conversions that come from a paid campaign.

Secondly, reports like these reveal how some traffic sources are great at starting the sales process while others do their best at the end.  Here’s a snapshot from another report from the same area in analytics that helps to explain this a bit further (for client confidentialities sake I have removed the $ values but kept in the parts that we are discussing).

Assisted Conversions

This chart is found in the Conversions – Multi-Channel Funnels – Assisted Conversions part of Google Analytics (no doubt as soon as I publish this Google will change its location J).

Anyway, let’s look at the data for Paid Search traffic stream again.  This shows for the period reported on that this channel assisted 84 Conversions but was the “Last Interaction” on just 37.

A channel can assist a conversion when it is included in the journey of the conversion but not at the end.  Likewise a “Last Interaction” is exactly that , when the channel is the last one used before the conversion is made.  In the paid advertising area – the Assisted / Last Interaction value is 2.27 – that means it assisted 2.27 times more than it converted.  It’s a great channel for starting the sales process but does a lousy job of closing the sale.

You could conclude from this that paid traffic is more likely to attract those at the start of a multi-stage buying process whereas direct does a great job of completing the hard part of closing those final stages.

And finally if these two points weren’t enough, this type of data reveals the search keyword progression prospects go through across both paid and organic traffic streams.  For instance let’s look at the image below from our own reports.  For lines 3, 4 and 6 where you can see the paid search term “seo”, it is then followed by organic search of  “seo marketing”, “online marketing” and “website marketing” – and line 5 where you see the paid search of “seo” followed by another paid search of “online marketing” then a direct visit before the conversion.

Attribution Paths


So there you have it.  Google’s conversion attribution tools are a smart way to follow the journey your visitors take on their way to completing your conversions.  There’s a ton of data in here so take your time to devour all you can find.   And of course don’t hesitate to give us a call if you need any help understanding what you find 0800 893477. We can provide you with a range of Google Analytics set up services suited to your website requirements.