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Understanding Referral Traffic in GA


Word of mouth is the gold standard when it comes to sales. When somebody picks up your info from another source that already trusts you, a relationship is well underway to being formed between you and the customer. And with online sales, the same is true. This article will take a look at how to identify different types of referral traffic and how to use this data to your advantage.

What is referral traffic?

Referral traffic, in an online sense, is essentially the website from where your visitors came. This could be another URL, embedded media or even a mention at another third-party site. It is important from a link-building perspective to show you how other people regard your site and where to focus your efforts in the future.

What does it measure?

Google Analytics reporting uses referral reports to show data about your referral traffic. To get your hands on this info, simply head to the reports tab, acquisitions and look for referrals.

The reports will show the sites that have referred visitors to you. This may be advertising or organic visitors. It also shows the session volume from the referral and traffic volume in terms of engagement and conversions for each source as well.

You can also use these reports to analyse traffic from your social media channels. And this could be a big deal if you rely heavily on this aspect of marketing.

What can you learn?

In a basic sense, you will work out where people are coming from and how valuable those sources are. This helps to identify future marketing avenues to save you time and money.

Value of link building and PR efforts

Building a relationship with other website owners is an integral part of creating a sustainable link-building project. It is certainly frowned upon to offer reciprocal links just for the fun of it but there is no harm in actively contributing to other sites that find your input useful.

Showing your expertise on a particular subject, for example, can end up with other website owners referring to your site as a source of expert knowledge. And these relationships can be taken a step further with social media influencers as well. GA will help you understand the value of these as you see how many referrals come from influential people who are keen to highlight your brand.

Identify spam traffic

But not all referral traffic is good traffic. Sometimes, unscrupulous companies will use your URL indiscriminately to build their own linking profile. This can not only give them an unfair advantage but also damage your own reputation on the SERPs.


Getting to grips with the data provided by GA for referral traffic is a must if you’re going to use others to help you along the way. There’s nothing selfish about the process. In fact, Google and other search engines won’t give your site any authority kudos if you don’t create decent referral channels via backlinks. Keep creating valuable content, advertise in the right places and contribute to other sites that you respect.

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