Understanding Google Analytics: What is Acquisition?

In our last post, we looked at how the website tracking system Google Analytics reports on visitor demographics. Today, we're talking about acquisitions and what they are.

by Southern Web

Marketing Analytics

Reading Time | 3 min

In our last post, we looked at how website tracking system Google Analytics reports on visitor demographics. These metrics ranged from age and gender to which operating system someone uses when accessing your website.

As important as it is to know who comprises your audience, it’s equally important to know how your audience finds your website.

To do this, we’ll take a look at Google Analytics Acquisition information, showing how visitors arrived on your website.

Acquisition is broken down into 10 sub-categories:

  • Overview
  • Channels
  • All Traffic
  • Referrals
  • Campaigns
  • Keywords
  • Cost Analysis
  • AdWords
  • Social and Search Engine Optimization.


Acquisition Overview provides a snapshot of what Google calls the “Acquisition-Behavior-Conversion (ABC) Cycle.” Basically, this displays where users come from, what they do on your site once they arrive and if they provide a conversion (filling out a form, making a purchase or completing a goal).


Channels are Organic Search, Referral, Direct, Social, Paid Search, Email or other routes your visitor takes to arrive at your website. Organic Search like Google, Yahoo! or Bing queries, provide the majority of web traffic for most websites. Referral traffic comes from a link on another website, while Direct visitors come to your site by entering your unique domain name into their web browser. Social traffic originates from places like Facebook, Twitter or Reddit. Paid Search traffic comes from Google Ads or other advertising platforms. Email, well, that comes from a link in an email, obviously.

Every website is different. Some businesses have a higher social presence, while others are more likely to be searched from a Search Engine. Because of this, it can be difficult to compare your website’s results with other sites, especially across various industries.

All Traffic

So, which websites send you the most traffic? This subsection will give you the answer. The default settings here show a breakdown of your biggest traffic sources. Visits, New Visits (by percentage), New Visits (total number), Bounce Rate, Pages per Visit, Average Visit Duration and your Conversion goals for each source are displayed here.

All Referrals

This section strips away search engine and direct traffic and dives a little deeper into the websites visitors use to arrive at your site. Like the All Traffic tab, Visits, New Visits (by percentage), New Visits (total number), Bounce Rate, Pages per Visit, Average Visit Duration and your Conversion goals are displayed here.


This section provides a breakdown of your Google Ads and other web advertising campaigns. Website owners can use this information to see if their advertising dollars are going to good use by tracking conversions and other metrics of visitors who find websites through paid campaigns.


Thanks to a change in Google’s reporting, information on “organic” Keywords is hard to come by these days. Website owners who run a Google Ads campaign can still see how their ad campaign keywords impact search results and traffic. Unfortunately, for those who do not run a Google Ads campaign, Keywords no longer exist in any kind of meaningful form. Read more about the change here and how it’s already begun to impact the SEO business.

Cost Analysis

This subsection is still in “Beta.” But, from what Google has shared about the Cost Data Import feature, website owners will have more power to see and compare visit, cost and revenue data for their paid campaigns here.

Google Ads

This information is particularly useful to website owners who are spending valuable marketing dollars on a Google Ads campaign. Learn about your bids, keywords, destination URLs, placements and more.


Social media has become one of the most crucial elements of a websites’ relevancy. These days, it’s more important than ever to take an active approach to maintain your brand’s reputation online. It’s also essential to take advantage of social media as a portal to generate traffic to your website. This section gives website owners information on the effectiveness of their social media campaigns.

Search Engine Optimization

This subsection displays information about Google web search results that return URL results to your website. Here you will find data on the terms and keywords visitors used to reach your site, how many times your website appears in search results and the average position your pages rank in these results.

Now that we’ve gone over Acquisition, we’ll take a look at Behavior in our next post.

Southern Web