spectacular tree with complicated root system
PHOTO: Brandon Green

Picking the right visual can provide a way to spot patterns and differences quickly. Marketers should embrace treemaps to do this.

A treemap is a collection of squares meant to display a hierarchical view of your data. The squares are large or small, depending on the value of the metric, so the purpose is to give a quick visual of which dimensions are largest, smallest or close in value.  

Google Analytics TreeMaps provide a comparison between one record versus a calculated metric. 

Getting Started with Google Analytics TreeMaps

To view a TreeMap report in Google Analytics, navigate to the Acquisition menu, select All Traffic, and then select TreeMap. A treemap report displaying referral traffic by sessions appears. You can adjust the dimension and metric selection in the upper right hand corner. The first selection is the dimension, the second is a metric choice (which is usually a calculated metric, like a percentage or ratio). 

The treemap selections mimic the dimensions and metrics in the report table.

You can then click on a dimension to view a treemap of that dimension if there are subsegments. For example if you want to view all the direct traffic, you can click direct and a treemap of each direct traffic source will appear, as seen in the image below.

Google Analytics TreeMap Example

Related Article: What Makes a Good Data Visualization?

Framing Your TreeMap Questions

Treemaps let marketers visualize the answer to any questions which involve the relationship of metrics to dimensions. Here are two example questions where marketers can use treemaps: 

  • Which social network (a dimension) referred the most sessions (a metric) to my website?
  • Which channel (dimension) sends less overall traffic, yet a consistently higher conversion rate (metric) compared with other channels?

It's best to frame the question as a choice of a dimension based on the metrics. Treemaps are great when there are significant differences between the two, for example, if one channel generated 9,000 sessions where the second ranked channel had 6,000, you can gauge the difference easier than if the metrics revealed a closer difference. If you need higher accuracy in visualizing the difference, you'll need a different chart, such as a bar chart.

Another treemap report is available for dimensions generated in Google Ads campaigns. The Google Ad campaign TreeMap is accessed under the Google Ads sections of the Acquisition menu.

Related Article: Telling Stories Through Data Visualization

Workarounds for TreeMap Limitations

Using TreeMaps in Google Analytics does come with a few additional limitations. In general, they can only display 16 blocks, which means you can compare no more than 16 dimensions. Sixteen dimensions should be enough for a marketing team to gain a reasonable comparison of social media platforms, especially as the average number of social media platforms a person uses is seven.

A few options exist to overcome the limitations. Marketers can import data into Google Data Studio and create a treemap there.  

A second option is to use R programming to develop a treemap. A library called treemap can be used to import data and create a graph. 

The advantage of either data studio or R programming is to have more flexibility in selecting dimensions. You can blend data from other sources to create a comparison. One idea is to import Google Analytics data into R or Google Data Studio and create a treemap if a segment is unavailable in the platform.

Ultimately treemaps provide a good basis for hypothesis comparison of data. They can help expose the relative importance of categories and the relationship between those categories, making treemaps a useful starting tool for marketers expanding their data visualization skills.