As a growth focused digital marketer, I'm sure you closely watch your customer acquisition channels. Knowing which channels perform best helps you decide where to focus your marketing efforts. As John Wanamaker famously said: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."

if only John Wanamaker could have asked his online customers

(IMAGE: courtesy of

In my previous post 5 Clever Hacks to Understand Your Google Analytics Direct Traffic I showed how 28% of our signups come from the Direct Channel Grouping in Google Analytics. That's a lot of signups that we don't know how we acquired them.

The Google Analytics “Channels” report - direct traffic

Our Best Hack to Decode Your Google Analytics Direct Traffic

This is one of our best hacks yet. We added one tiny question to all our signups. 6 golden words: “How did you hear about us?”

“How did you hear about us?”

We showed this question to new users immediately after signup, on the next screen. Totally optional, yet a whopping 93% of users answered the question.

One Killer Question to Answer Your Google Analytics Direct Traffic

Since we introduced that question we can now understand better the source for those users that we don’t have an obvious source showing in our analytics reports.

NOTE: We have an event setup to [capture the form and push the answers direct from our website into Woopra and Mixpanel](" target="_blank)) so the answer to the question also attaches direct tot he user profile.

So, here's a glimpse of the data we've gathered so far (exported from Woopra):

Understanding our Direct Traffic: ANSWER: “How did you hear about us?”

So far the data shows the most popular way for people to hear about us is via a friend (22%). We work hard to get personal referrals, and this seems to be producing a result (which we had assumed - but now we have the evidence). Google and Blog combined make up at total 29% which again reinforces the benefits of our Inbound Marketing from an SEO perspective. There are a mix of other references ( as a reference isn't surprising, but YouTube was unexpected.)

So, now we have a better answer to our question "How did you hear about us?" we can take our 28% of "Direct Channel" signups and attribute them across these different answers. It's not 100% perfect, but certainly gives a significantly more complete picture.

One caveat: we suggested some answers on the form ("friend", and "blog"), which may skew the results. We're going to change the form to just leave the answer without any suggestions and see if that improves the answers.

Of course measuring acquisition channels is only a part of a good marketing analytics tool stack. If you want to set up an essential stack with some key tools including channels, conversion funnels and automated customer messaging read our [7 Essentials of Marketing Analytics - a Beginners Guide](GHOST_URL/6-essentials-of-marketing-analytics-a-beginners-guide-for-startup-growth-hackers/" target="_blank).

I hope this has been useful to you, and if you’ve struggled with understanding Direct Traffic I’d love you to tell me how you tackled it in the comments below.

I’ll hope to return to this post in the future with an update as we continue to work toward zero for the Direct channel, so if you don't want to miss out you should [subscribe here](" target="_blank).

p.s. How good is your Marketing Analytics Stack? Or your competition? Find out with our FREE online Marketing Analytics Stack Grader tool.

Lastly, if you want to get more “data-driven” and learn more about using data and tools to improve your marketing (instead of just guessing) we’ve put together a [free email course that you can sign up for here](" target="_blank).