Google Analytics Other - What does it mean?

September 5, 2022
12 min read

Aah, yes - the mysterious “Other” found under Google Analytics Traffic Channels.

It has left many analytics newbies scratching their heads in confusion. 

  • Should you ignore it?

  • Is there any way to see what “other” includes? 

  • Is there a way to solve the “other” dilemma?

Grab a cup of coffee and let the Abralytics team provide you with all the answers.

Let’s begin by explaining what the various traffic channels are. 

What is a Traffic Channel in Google Analytics?

A traffic channel or source tells you how a visitor landed on your website. Pretty simple, right?

Why does this matter?

Because knowing where your visitors came from can help you channel your money and efforts in the right place.

For example, if the Acquisition report shows that most users came from Direct Search, you know your offline advertising campaigns are a tremendous success. But, you may need to allocate additional resources to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), so more customers can see you in search.

Acquisition → Overview Page → Top Channels

In the Acquisition Overview report, you’ll find a pie chart and table showing your Traffic Channels.

These can include

  • Direct:

Direct traffic means the user has typed your URL directly into their browser. It also includes people who have clicked a link to your site on a pdf, Whatsapp message, Facebook Messenger or email.

  • Paid Search

Traffic that comes from any paid ad that appears in search results. 

  • Display

Traffic that lands on your site after clicking an ad you placed on another website. For example, a banner ad on a blog.

  • Affiliates

Traffic as a result of affiliate marketing. Your product or service appears on another website with a link to your site. This is done in exchange for a small commission on every item bought.

  • Organic Search

Visitors who found your site after typing a word or phrase into a search bar. Your page appeared in search results as a relevant match, and the user clicked through to your site.

Source: Pexels

  • Social

Users who click through to your site from a social network page or app. This could include LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, among others.

  • Referral

Referral traffic comes from backlinks -  when a user lands on your site by clicking a link on another website. 

  • Email

Visitors who land on your site as a result of your email marketing campaigns.

  • Other

Last but not least, “other” makes a sneaky appearance. So let’s dive in.

What is “Other” in Google Analytics? 

A source is categorized as “other” if Google doesn’t recognize it as belonging to a specific channel.

The source doesn’t play by the (predefined) rules and GA can’t say how these users came to your site.

This can happen when a UTM tag has been placed in an URL incorrectly.

Let’s see how this happens:

Incorrect UTM tags

A UTM tag can be created using a UTM Tag Builder. It is a small string of text placed at the end of a URL to help you see exactly which pieces of content are performing well and driving the most traffic to your site.

So while an analytics tool can tell you where your web traffic comes from, a UTM tag tells you which specific posts, pages or ads they clicked on.

So without one, you’ll be able to see that 1000 visitors came from a Social Channel, but you won’t know from which Social Channel.

But when a UTM tag is created incorrectly, it could cause GA to categorize it incorrectly. Instead of ending up under Social, it could be categorized as Other.

Here are some common errors when creating UTM tags that are easy to fix:

  • Mixing lowercase and uppercase letters. Channel definitions are case-sensitive.
  • Inconsistent tagging. For example, using the term “paid” on one tag, but “ad” on another
  • Campaign names that are too long
  • Spelling mistakes
  • Not using Source/Medium consistently
  • Using UTMs for internal links

Can you just ignore it? 

Source: Pexels

You probably shouldn’t. If you chose to ignore the “other” sources, you could miss out on valuable pieces of data. 

And like when building a jigsaw puzzle, the larger the number of missing pieces, the less clear the picture becomes. In the same way, the more traffic bucketed under “Other”, the less accurate your data collection is.

If you have a personal site or small business, you may get away with just checking what’s under “Other” on a regular basis.

But the bigger your website is, you’ll want to find a way to sort the problem out.

Is there any way to see what “other” includes? 

Absolutely - Just follow the steps outlined below:

Step 1: Sign into your Google Analytics account

Step 2: Open your Google Analytics Dashboard →

Acquisition → All Traffic → Channels→ Default Channel Grouping column

Step 3: Click on “Other” 

Source: Getelevar

Step 4: Change your Secondary Dimension to Medium (Acquisition - Source/medium)

Source: Getelevar

And now you can see where the “Other” traffic originated from.

Is there a way to solve the “other” dilemma for good?

Yes, depending on your skill level, you could either:

  1. Move them to an existing Google Analytics channel
  2. Create a new custom channel grouping

  1. Move them to an existing Google Analytics channel

Let’s use #8 on the image above as an example.

Follow steps 1- 4 above.

Step 5: Identify which channel group each row could belong to.

Social Instagram should go under the Social Traffic Channel

Step 6: Click on Admin → Channel Settings → Channel Grouping → Default channel grouping settings

Step 7: Open the desired channel, which is Social in our example

Step 8: Select “Medium” from the drop-down list

Step 9: Type “social” in the Match Value field

Step 10: Click Done and save

  1. Create a new custom channel grouping

Let’s use #1 in the image this time.

Follow steps 1-4 above.

Step 5: Admin View column Custom channel grouping New channel grouping 

Step 6: Type in Name eg. Organic Search


Step 7: Define Rules:

Select Source/Medium

Choose Contains or Exactly matches

Type the name as it appeared under Source, for example, Yahoo

Step 8: Click Done - Click Save

In Summary

Right, so now you know why Google Analytics buckets some of your traffic to Other. As well as how to find out what the Other traffic sources are. 

And if you decide to go that route, how to set up your channels and UTM tags so traffic sources fall into the right groupings.

But if it’s left you still scratching your head in confusion, why not consider a simpler Google Analytics alternative like Abralytics?

 We don’t send traffic sources to a mysterious folder - We list each source individually so you don’t have to dig around to find them.

We’ve made it our mission to bring clear, powerful insights to our customers without the steep learning curve. 

Contact us now via Live chat to see if Abralytics is the right analytics tool for you!

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