How To Analyze Your Referral Sources (Using Google Analytics)

By Steven Warner
How To Analyze Your Referral Sources (Using Google Analytics)

Knowing where your traffic comes from can unlock some handy data for your business. Not only will you have an idea of the types of traffic that you attract, but you will also be able to see how they move inside your website. 

In this article, you’ll learn and understand one of the most valuable types of traffic on your website – referral traffic. It does not pertain to the referrals that you get in an affiliate program. Instead, it is the websites, pages, and links that “brought” traffic to your website. By doing this, you can get to know your website visitors so that you’ll understand why they visit your site and buy your products and services. 

Referral Traffic vs. Referrals from Referral Marketing

As mentioned, referral traffic is different from the referrals that you get from referral programs. 

Referrals from marketing programs usually incentivize customers, and referrals are the results of this system. These referrals are often the family, friends, and colleagues of existing customers and website visitors. These programs’ goal is to attract new people to the business through the close relationships of their existing network. 

Referral traffic, on the other hand, pertains to the traffic that is recommended by other websites. It is a type of traffic that Google Analytics can capture. With it, you’ll see the exact websites that are bringing traffic to your business. By doing this, you will understand your traffic sources, giving you a chance to improve your marketing and attract the right people. 

Why Analyze Your Referral Traffic

On the surface, referral traffic is just some people from another website. But there is more to them than only people who clicked through your site. There is also a reason why they took that action. Analyzing your referral traffic will allow you to understand why people are visiting your website. Once you do this, you can then attract similar audiences and even predict your customers’ path when they visit your site. The path pertains to the pages that they will see and the links they will click. You can predict this because you now understand why your audience is visiting your site. 

How to Analyze Your Referral Traffic

There are many tools that you can use to track referral traffic. But Google Analytics is the easiest to use. The best part is it is free. You can activate it by simply adding a line of code to your website’s <head> tag. 

Once you have successfully installed Google Analytics, you can now track your referral traffic. For this, you have to click on the Acquisition Tab. Go to the drop-down menu and click “All Traffic.” From here, you will be able to find your referrals. 

Once you are in the referral section, you can now start tracking the links that have brought traffic to your site. These are your backlinks. They are linking to you, which is why they can get traffic to your site. From here, you can refine tracking to include sources, pages, and conversions. 

Tracking Referral Sources

By now, you should have a list of backlinks. But this is not enough to track your referral sources. You need two other things. First, you need to know the actual users that visited your site and what pages they visited when they landed on your site. 

More than just looking at your backlinks, you can break down these links into visitors. Just go to the Acquisition menu and then click on the referral drop-down. You can then use this to search for new users. Only search for the word “New” and click Apply. You will then be able to see all the new users on your website.

As you can see, it is not enough to know about your backlinks. You also need to fully understand your audience segments to have a clearer view of your traffic. If you don’t do this, you risk making interpretations just from the backlinks. You need to take a closer look at user behavior for this data to be helpful to you.

The best way to track user behavior is to look at referral paths. By doing this, you will not only see the domains that brought you traffic. You can also find the specific pages that they visited to find you. These pages are known as referral paths.

You can find these in the Traffic Sources section in Google Analytics. Once you are there, go to Referrals, then set the primary source to the referral path. This action will reveal all of the pages that brought traffic to your website. 

Tracking Social Referrals

Similarly, you can also track social referrals. As more and more people use social media, they also use it as a tool for discovery. Links are often shared on these websites, but you need to know what particular posts brought traffic to your site.

You can do this by heading to the Acquisition menu. You can go here and click on the Traffic menu so you can see your referrals. Once you visit a social media website such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you can click on these and implement a tracking system. 

In the old days, it is pretty challenging to track social referrals. They are often considered “dark social” traffic, for it is hard to follow the actual posts that brought the traffic. But today, you can implement some UTM parameters so that you can track your social media posts’ performance. 

What Your Referral Traffic Says About You

As you can see, it is not that difficult to decode your website traffic. You’ll find that there are free and valuable tools that can help you do this. Gathering information about your traffic allows you to find out what pages they visited before finding your site. It can also allow you to study their motivations on why they visited your site. All of these are essential if you want to know, understand and predict what your website traffic will do. And it is essential for predicting sales as well. 

By Steven Warner

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