This post is one more in the series on SiteCatalyst’s Mar­ket­ing Chan­nel reports. So far the series has cov­ered nam­ing your chan­nels, set­ting up rules for search, cam­paigns and all other chan­nels, as well as how to start trouble-shooting your report. If you are able to fol­low the full series you can become a mas­ter of the Mar­ket­ing Chan­nel report and take your mar­ket­ing analy­sis to a new level. This post focuses on set­ting up Chan­nel Overrides.

Every­one wants credit for the onsite con­ver­sion, but which chan­nels should per­sist, expire or be ignored? Should some chan­nel click-throughs get pri­or­i­tized over other chan­nels? Mar­ket­ing Chan­nels includes a fea­ture to allow mar­keters to over­ride cer­tain chan­nels. But what are over­rides and how do they work?

Over­rides are avail­able in the Mar­ket­ing Chan­nel Man­ager when you first set up your chan­nel names. By default every chan­nel except Direct and Ses­sion Refresh has a check mark next to it. But what does that check mark actu­ally do?


To answer that ques­tion let’s focus on last touch allo­ca­tion (more to come on allo­ca­tion in the next post). When account­ing for 100% of all traf­fic entries (which the Mar­ket­ing Chan­nels report does), every time some­one enters the site that entry is allo­cated to one chan­nel or another. So every time a Paid, Organic or Direct click-through to the site occurs, it is being recorded as the visitor’s “Last Touch” chan­nel. In this sce­nario the most recent chan­nel always over-writes the pre­vi­ous channel.

Before the Mar­ket­ing Chan­nels report was included in Site­Cat­a­lyst, Cam­paigns were silo-ed into their own report so mar­keters would use an expi­ra­tion period on the cam­paign to per­sist the track­ing code until the cam­paign expired or the vis­i­tor clicked-through on another cam­paign. That means if a vis­i­tor clicked on a Paid Search Ad to the site, but con­verted on a sub­se­quent visit from an organic or direct chan­nel (within the expi­ra­tion period) the con­ver­sion would be attrib­uted back to that orig­i­nal Paid Search Ad. SEM and Paid Media teams loved this model, but SEO, Social Media and earned efforts were essen­tially ignored in the report. With Mar­ket­ing Chan­nels, organic chan­nels can be on par with paid chan­nels. Which means Nat­ural Search can over­ride Paid Search as a “Last Touch” chan­nel, and Social Media can over­ride Dis­play, etc. Even Direct and Ses­sion Refresh can pre­vail over other chan­nels, which is why Site­Cat­a­lyst includes the abil­ity to deter­mine which Over­rides are available.

Maybe you don’t want Direct to over­rule Paid Search. And we cer­tainly don’t want Ses­sion Refresh to over­ride any other chan­nels. In this case you can elect Direct and Ses­sion Refresh (and any other chan­nels) to be ignored, which would allow Vis­its and Suc­cess Met­rics to be allo­cated back to the pre­vi­ous chan­nel the vis­i­tor clicked through on.

Before we dive into exam­ples, we have one more notion to sort out…Visits. The Vis­its met­ric in the Mar­ket­ing Chan­nels report is a con­ver­sion met­ric. That means that Vis­its will behave like other suc­cess met­rics in regards to allo­ca­tion. Let’s say I have 500 Vis­its to my site. In the Mar­ket­ing Chan­nels report I can see which chan­nel each of those vis­its entered the site on; I can sum up all the vis­its from each chan­nel and come up with 500. Yes! I finally have my chan­nel Pie Chart for Vis­its!! If I let all chan­nels over­ride all other chan­nels equally, then my Visit chan­nel will always be the most recent chan­nel clicked-through by the vis­i­tor (Click-throughs = Vis­its). But what hap­pens if some chan­nels are not allowed to over­ride? Over­rides essen­tially mean the chan­nel will be ignored.

If Direct is not allowed to over­ride (unchecked in the Mar­ket­ing Chan­nel Man­ager), that means that if I have a rec­og­nized chan­nel already recorded in a pre­vi­ous visit, the Direct click-through will be ignored and the visit and suc­cess events can be allo­cated back to the pre­vi­ous chan­nel. For exam­ple, a site has a vis­i­tor with 2 vis­its: the 1st from Paid Search, the 2nd from Direct and the vis­i­tor con­verts dur­ing that sec­ond visit. The con­ver­sion will be tied back to that Paid Search entry rather than the Direct entry. And since Vis­its are a con­ver­sion met­ric the Visit from the 2nd entry will also be allo­cated back to Paid Search.

4 Vis­i­tors in a world where all chan­nels Over­ride (every­thing checked):


Same 4 Vis­i­tors when Direct and Ses­sion Refresh are not allowed to Over­ride other chan­nels:


How does this change the game? Well, when mak­ing a deci­sion on whether to use Over­rides con­sider the following:

  • Advan­tages: Con­ver­sions can be allo­cated to “true” channels
    • Option: Use Click-throughs as the denom­i­na­tor and under­stand “x Vis­its and y con­ver­sions resulted from z click-throughs” (not y con­ver­sions resulted from x Visits)
  • Dis­ad­van­tages: Report can be con­fus­ing and Direct may be ignored as a “brand­ing” chan­nel for other offline efforts
    • Alter­na­tive: Do not use Over­rides for Direct and use First Touch Mar­ket­ing Chan­nel reports to allo­cate con­ver­sions back to the Orig­i­nal chan­nel for acqui­si­tion analysis



I know this is an old post but I have a question about both scenarios when a visitor has multiple entry instances during the same visit.

For example:

Visit 1 - 10:00am:  Paid Search

Visit 1 - 10:05am:  Natural Search

Visit 1 - 10:20am:  Direct

What is the impact to click-throughs and visits in both scenarios?  I believe if you add up the individual channel visits it will total greater than the # of actual visits to the site.  is this correct?