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Here's how to get your social ads traffic under Paid Social in GA4

The transition from Universal Analytics and GA4 is in full swing.  As of July 1, you can no longer collect data in Universal Analytics. To have a good transition, you need to start collecting data in GA4 now. You will likely still encounter some annoying nick-nacks, such as how GA4 measures your default channel groupings and UTM parameter settings. The biggest difference here is in the grouping of paid traffic from social networks.

It’s quite possible that in GA4 you are currently seeing a large number of visitors in organic social. Chances are this is due to your UTM settings on your paid social accounts. But, we have the solution for you! These steps will get your paid social traffic right in GA4 AND keep it right in Universal Analytics!

What are UTM parameters?

UTMs are parameters you add to a URL. These parameters provide a piece of information about where the traffic on your website comes from. This way you can attribute which channels contributed to conversions and track which traffic comes in through which web pages and how customers behave.

Why is my paid traffic coming in on organic social?

If on GA4 you see traffic coming in from social networks in the organic social group, then by GA4 standards you probably have your UTM set "wrong’. Here's how it works:

social traffic in universal analytics

To get the traffic through Universal Analytics under the channel group social, the word social had to be added to the medium. This is because the source/medium facebook/cpc, cpl, cpa etc. were added under paid search.


Super inconvenient, because at a glance this caused Facebook to be merged with Google Ads, making Facebook invisible. This also made it harder to measure the extent to which social media contributed as assisted conversions.

The solution to this: use facebook/social as a source/medium!

This worked perfectly, until GA4. With GA4, Google distinguishes between paid and organic social traffic. This is super convenient, but if you keep the same source/medium in your UTMs, your paid traffic will therefore show up under organic traffic in GA4.

How do I get my social ads in the right place in GA4?

Change your medium in your UTM. The word 'social' alone triggers Google on organic. Exchange the word social for 1 of these options

  • CPC
  • paid
  • paid_social (or paid_instagram, paid_facebook etc)
  • PPC
  • retargeting


So that it triggers correctly in GA4!

But what about Universal Analytics?

If you want to keep the data coming into Universal Analytics as long as possible and you want it to be in the right place, you will have to make an adjustment in the settings. In Universal Analytics you can change the settings of the default channel groupings in the meantime.


If you do not adjust, your traffic in Universal Analytics will come in under 'other' or again under 'paid search'.

Fortunately, adjusting is very easy.


  1. Go to Settings
  2. under 'view' choose the heading channel settings
  3. choose channel grouping


Here you can edit the default channel grouping.

  1. Under the grouping 'social' add the following line:

'or' source/medium contains (your new source/medium)

Can I edit the channel groups in GA4?

No. Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to edit this grouping in GA4. Of course, that would have made things a lot easier. Google is in the process of setting this option, but it is not yet possible everywhere. Now,  you could wait until Google implements these settings, but that would mean you already have a lot of historical data in the wrong place. 


Can I use Meta as a source?

GA4 does not yet recognize the source 'meta' as the new social network. So you cannot use meta as a source as an overarching source for all your ads from facebook and instagram bundled together.


That’s it!

Use these simple steps and your traffic is grouped correctly. You’re welcome!