Understand Channel, Medium, and Source in Google Analytics

All these three terms- Channel, Medium, and Source are associated with Website Traffic or Visitors. There are different Sources and mediums through which visitors reach your site. Google has accumulated Source and Medium to predefined Channel to display Analytics Report most reasonable way.

Whatever their general meanings are, Google has tied up meaning and definition for each which is essential to know in order to understand Analytics Reports regarding Website Traffic perfectly.

However, as Channel, Source, and Medium are correlated with Web-traffic, you cannot proceed to learn them without a clear understanding of Web Traffic and its Categories. Here is our Tutorial regarding Web-based traffic. Read up this in 3 to 4 minutes before you start reading the present article-

Channel, Source, Medium- What is What?

Channel Source and Medium in Google Analytics

In our previous reading about Web-traffic, we got acquainted with different kinds of traffic. Let’s see all of the traffic in a list at a glance-

Direct Organic Paid
Referral Website Social Media
Search Engine Email Campaign Display

If we have a deeper look at each of them, we find that every traffic is not of same expressions. The terms give different information as a website traffic. How?

Let’s think over three traffic-terms- Search Engine Traffic, Organic Traffic and Display Traffic.

Here is what each of this traffic actually mean-

  • Search Engine Traffic: It indicates from where the traffic came. May be, the traffic came from Google or Bing or Yahoo.
  • Organic: It indicates how or which way the traffic came. Other examples may be Referral Traffic, CPC Traffic etc.
  • Display Traffic:  It indicates an advertisement-media traffic- through Banner, Image or video ad. This kind of traffic goes under Paid or Referral Traffic.

Now what could we figure-out form the above analysis?

Our study shows that it is not easy to classify all the traffics. All terms don’t refer to the same thing. Again, one is nested to and nested from other.

So, if you get stat of these traffics separately, this will neither be a well-organized traffic output not will it be up to your expectation.

Here comes Channel, Source and Medium in the scenario. To produce the most reasonable and organized reporting stats, Google fixes these terminologies regarding web-traffics with their specific definitions.


Source‘ is, in Google’s word, the origin of your traffic. As defined in Google Analytics, Traffic Source is, where your traffics come from. It actually implies a space or an intangible place throughout World Wide Web by clicking which a visitor lands on your site.

Traffic Source may be-

  • Search Engine: Such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo etc.
  • Any Website:Such as example.com. When a traffic comes from amazon.com, the traffic Source is amazon. If it comes from bijoy.net, the traffic Source is bijoy and if from facebook.com, its Source is facebook and so on.
  • Beyond site or Search Engine: If traffic source is unknown or it didn’t come from any website or Search Engine, it is termed as ‘Direct’. Google Analytics system assumes that the Traffic is originated by URL on Browser or clicking bookmarked or saved link.

If you want to get to Source in Google Analytics Reports-

  • Click Acquisition from left panel of Google Analytics Home.
  • Then All Traffic>>Channels or All Traffic>> Source/Medium
  • Next click Source from Primary Dimension on top of Data Table
User, Session and Pageviews

Remember, All traffic Source name you see in the list might not be Pre-defined by Google or System-defined. You can also create your own Source. We’re going to highlight on this User-defined Source in our next tutorial.


Medium is, in Google’s word, categories of Source. In easy word, Traffic Medium is how or what way visitors enter your site from Source.

Now, to find out Traffic Medium, let’s ask some questions-

Traffic came from Search Engine. How? What way?

Probable answer might be: organic way or paid way. Paid way might be- Cost Per Click (CPC) paid search or others. So here ‘Organic‘ and ‘cpc‘ are Traffic Medium. Similarly other Mediums are Referral, cpa, affiliate, cpm etc.

Medium can also be System-defined and User-defined. In this article, we’re dealing with System-defined Medium. User-defined Medium will be highlighted in the next article.

Here is a list of System-defined Medium used in Google Analytics-

Organic CPC Paidsearch
Affiliate Referral Display
Banner CPA Email
CPM Content-text not set

To get to Medium in Google Analytics Reports-

  • Click Acquisition from left panel of Google Analytics Home.
  • Then All Traffic>>Channels or All Traffic>> Source/Medium
  • Next click Medium from Primary Dimension on top of Data Table
Source Medium Channel in Google Analytics

So we clearly see that Google Analytics traffic SOURCE can be compared to place or station and MEDIUM resembles type of transport (train, bus, launch etc.) used to reach your site.

Again, it is also evident that knowing only traffic Source might not be satisfactory in many cases. Then a common question arises: how did the traffic come from that Source? Reasonably their is Source/Medium tab which indicates Source as well as associated Medium of that traffic. You can check Source/Medium report by clicking

  • Acquisition>>All Traffic>> Source/Medium


Now, what is Channel in Google Analytics? Is it Source or Medium or both or anything else?

Actually Channel is neither Source nor Medium alone. Channel is group of a number of traffic Sources with the same Medium.

So, it is obvious that Channel name usually comes from Medium such as Paid. ‘Paid’ is a channel name. This means: as we discussed in the previous tutorial, paid traffic might come from different Sources like Any Search Engine, Any Social Media site or any other site. So this way an Analytics user can easily guess/estimate which traffic Source is most successful or most failure in Paid Ad campaign.

Probably as for Google, so for everybody, this is the most logical and even emotional way to get satisfied with traffic stat.

However, Channel name might be else that is most reasonable and convenient for traffic calculation such as Email and Referral.

Now let’s see, at a glance, the Channel-names defined by Google or Default Channel Grouping by GA-

Organic Direct Social
Email Affiliate Paid search
Referral Display Others

Each of these Channel-names indicate different kinds of Traffic which are actually the traffic Sources.

Suppose you question: where did all my CPC (Cost Per Click) traffic come from?

Probable answer is: From Google, Bing, Youtube, healthcare.com, gamesandsports.net and so on.

Isn’t it the best and most dependable way to know traffic situation of a site?

However, if you need to enter Channel in Google Analytics Reports-

  • Click Acquisition from left panel of Google Analytics Home.
  • Then go to All Traffic>>Channels.

That’s all.

Hope you could overcome all the confusions about Google-defined Channel, Source and Medium and acquired a glaring confident to win Google Analytics as well as go along the way of successful blogging.

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