Semalt: How Referral Traffic Affects Your Data

What is referral traffic? Why is it important? Well, Jack Miller, the Senior Customer Success Manager of Semalt, explains that referral traffic is the segment of traffic that lands on your site via another source. The source could be a link from another domain. Google Analytics immediately knows where the web traffic was before landing on your site. As such it (Google Analytics) will display the domain names of these websites as referral traffic source in its reports.

How is your data affected when you exclude referral traffic?

It’s by default that referrers automatically trigger new sessions. However, when you opt to exclude any referral source, then the web traffic from the excluded domains does not trigger new sessions. As is obvious, if you want referral traffic to trigger new sessions then you should not include the domains in this exclusion list.

From the above scenario, you can see that since referrals trigger new sessions, excluding the referrals then implies that it affects how your sessions are calculated. This interaction can be counted as a singular or multiple sessions depending on how you handle referrals. For instance, a user on mysite.com visits your website; yoursite.com then goes back to mysite.com. If you have not excluded your website (yoursite.com), then both sessions are counted. Once every time he/ she lands on mysite.com. If on the other hand, you excluded yoursite.com then only a single session would be triggered. That’s how excluding referral traffic affects how your sessions are counted.

Common applications of referral exclusions

  • for third party payment processing
  • cross domain tracking

The exclusion list

You should be aware of the fact that only web traffic from a domain and its sub domains can be excluded. Traffic from a domain with sub-string matches is not.

For instance, if you exclude referral traffic from website.com, then web traffic from the domain website.com and sub domain another.website.comis excluded. Web traffic from another-website.com is however not excluded.

How to create a referral exclusion list?

  • start by signing into your Google Analytics account
  • click on ‘Admin’
  • using the drop down menu somewhere on your account column, select a property you’d wish to tweak
  • click on Tracking-Info
  • click Referral-Exclusion-List
  • add the domain name then create your list
  • save the changes, and you’re good to go

How to remove a domain from the exclusion list?

If for some reason best known to you to reconsider removing a domain from the exclusion list then you can do so with ease. Use the steps above except for a small detail – rather than add a referral, remove it. Finish off by clicking Delete Domain then save changes.

Test the waters

Ensure that your exclusion list is working by testing it. Experts recommend you to use Google’s Tag Assistant Recording. It will tell you what’s being excluded and what is not.

There are times when traffic excluded still appears in your report. It could happen because:

  • users visited your site before you creating the exclusion list
  • they could be using bookmarks