What is Referral Traffic – Google Analytics Tracking

What is Referral Traffic on
Google Analytics?

Website traffic is a critical component of success for most companies. Whether your marketing team is managing a campaign by keeping tight reins on its SEO keyword usage or by strictly monitoring its PPC (pay-per-click campaigns), you don’t want to overlook the value that referral site traffic brings to your business.


When looking at the referral traffic Google Analytics provides, it is important to pay attention to where referral traffic originates. However, you may not be reviewing website referral tracking as frequently as you should. And, that’s a big mistake as you are missing some very valuable information! 

Today, we’re going to cover what is referral traffic and how we can improve your use of it to increase your search engine result page (SERP) ranking.

What is Referral Traffic?

Understanding what is referral traffic will allow you to grasp how well external sites are promoting your business. Essentially, any visitor that arrives at your site through a link on another site outside of a search engine is referral traffic. Meaning, that a person was either on a blog from a different domain or one of the various social media platforms and clicked a link to end up on your site. 


The most common way to track this data is through analytics referral traffic from Google. 


So, what is a referral in Google Analytics?


In terms of a referral, Google Analytics’ definition is a visitor via an Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) code who clicks a link from a second site. The UTM code allows your marketing manager to know exactly where a visitor came from before finding their way onto your site.

This referral Google Analytics traffic is measured through what is commonly referred to as backlinks. When you have backlinks from credible sources, you increase both your referral traffic and your organic traffic. With backlinks from authoritative sites such as local business listings, high-trafficked sites, and news blurbs, Google’s web crawlers will have an easier time categorizing your pages and increase your chances of a better position on a SERP.

How is Traffic Measured?

Google Analytics tracks three metrics when it comes to traffic for your website. One of the metrics is Organic traffic that comes from a SERP, the second is Direct traffic, which is traffic that comes from users inputting your URL or from a bookmark, and the third is referral traffic. 

Measuring referral traffic on Google Analytics can offer your marketing team valuable information when it comes to developing new strategies for future campaigns.

Social Media Referral Traffic

Google Analytics breaks down the sources of your referral traffic so that you know which platform performs the best and which is lagging and needs to be adjusted.

The report will give your further in-depth analysis outside of just showing you which platform is generating traffic. As each URL is listed, you can see if most of your visitors come from a social media platform’s desktop URL or coming from a mobile version.

With careful thought, you can use this data to better tailor your visitor’s user experience. For instance, if you notice that over 80 percent of your referral traffic comes from a mobile version of Facebook, you know that you should optimize your website for mobile users.

Analyzing Business Listings

Referral traffic on Google Analytics can also provide important information on which business listing is delivering the best ROI (return on investment). Suppose you find your business listed on a site that reviews financial advisors and is shown to be the highest performer for referral traffic and even conversions (a metric used to show user engagement). In that case, you know this site is worth investing more of your marketing budget. You can even use it as a template for A/B testing to see how the information is delivered differently from another similar site that doesn’t produce the same results.

With the vast amount of data compiled by Google Analytics, you can determine which business partnership may need to be revisited to see if it can deliver the results you want.

The Benefits of Referral Tracking

Referral traffic hosts numerous benefits to your site’s online presence, including promoting brand awareness. It allows your message to find its way in front of qualified users from trusted sources. If the websites are authoritative, you know that any visitors being directed from there are pre-screened to a certain extent. 


Through the use of UTMs, you can narrow down where exactly your referral traffic is originating, allowing you to see which external site holds the most benefit for your company’s future through traffic volume and conversions. 


Proper analysis of referral traffic will also show how well your SEO is performing. When a user engages with one of your backlinks, this acts as a trigger for Google’s web crawlers to recognize that your URLs contain valuable and relevant information. This action tells Google’s algorithm to rank your company higher on a SERP.

How to Build Better Referral Traffic

It’s easy to assume that you only need to set up a few backlinks and let them run. However, developing better referral traffic is a task that requires frequent attention. 


If you want to grow your company, here are some tips to help you along the way:

Publish Your Site on Online Directories

One of the quickest ways to build-up backlinks is by publishing your site on every available online directory relevant to your industry and location.

Make Your Way onto Review Sites

By having hyperlinks on review sites, you are not only building backlinks, you’re performing an additional layer of client qualification. If a user clicks on your link on a review site, it’s safe to assume that they have some interest in your business and what you offer.

Get Published on Guest Blog Posts and Comment on Blogs

Similar to a review site, blogs offer you a way to increase backlinks while vetting potential clients. There are different tiers of credibility when it comes to blogs. However, if you have referral traffic being sent from any of these sites, you know that the user has been briefed about the purpose of your company.

You don’t want to forget to comment on blogs as well. As long as you’re not crossing over into spam territory, you can greatly increase your referral traffic.

If you would like to learn more about what is referral traffic, and how it can help your financial advisor marketing plan, contact LeadJig today. To help you get the best clients in front of you,  request a demo of our cutting-edge software platform, and we’ll make sure that your business grows!