Referring Sources in Google Analytics

“More Where That Came From!” Referring Sources in Google Analytics

use google analytics to get more traffic simple way

Let’s pretend for a moment that you own a brick-and-mortar company, Bob’s Brick Business. As Bob, you spend hundreds of dollars each month in advertising – radio ads on your local station WQUR, print ads in “Better Homes and Garages” magazine, even paying neighborhood kids to go around town and put flyers on billboards and telephone poles.

When a new client walks into your store or calls you on the phone, and you close a deal to deliver 50,000 neon green bricks – what question are you going to ask them?

No, not “What on earth are you building with neon green bricks?’

Bob (that’s you), will ask this new client: “How did you get to me?”

As a savvy small business owner, you want to buy advertising that provides a return on investment. If most of your clients are coming from your radio ads, but almost none from your print ads, then you stop advertising in print or you modify your ad there to see if you can get a better result. Same thing if “Better Homes and Garages” is delivering better results than “Contractor’s Daily.”

So you ask your clients how they got to you.  Even if they don’t become your client immediately, but they did walk into your store – you’re still going to want to know how they found out about Bob’s Brick Business.

Now you can stop being Bob. Maybe you don’t have a brick-and-mortar store. But if you’re reading this, chances are you have a website, and chances are even better that you really want people to visit your website. You probably want more traffic than you have right now, and you especially want them to convert (accomplish the goal of your website – buy, contact you, sign up, etc.).

Maybe you invest nothing in advertising. Most likely, however you do something to try to draw visitors to your site, whether it’s SEO, commenting on other sites in your market, or establishing a community via social media. That’s a time investment, or perhaps if you outsource it (to someone like me) it costs. Which of those activities is working the best for you?  Which should you put more effort into?  Which should you stop – or modify your approach?

Let’s take a look together at your Google Analytics.

If your response was “but I don’t have Google Analytics,” or “What’s Google Analytics?” drop everything and get it onto your site.
Seriously. It should take about 5 minutes, and you can probably do it yourself. You could also ask your web developer to do it for you. If you don’t have it, with every day that goes by you’re missing out on information that could help you make your site more successful. If you want a step-by-step post on how to enable Google Analytics for your site, leave a message to that effect in the comments below – and we can arrange it.

So sign into your Google Analytics account.

Under the Standard Reporting View, check out the left sidebar.  Go down to the item entitled “Traffic Sources” and click.

referring sources sidebar

Now click on “Sources.”  Let’s check out the first option, “All Traffic.”

Here you’ll see a rundown of all the referring sources.

(Direct) / (none) means this is traffic that came directly to your site. It was typed into the browser bar, or it was through a bookmark someone had made of your site; it did not come through any other site. On occasion (direct) / (none) traffic actually does come from a particular referrer that you would want to know about, like your email newsletter. But if you’re just starting out with Google Analytics and referring sources, get this post under your belt first.

Google / organic indicates visitors that came through searches in Google. Other search engines will show up similarly, e.g. Bing /organic.

Google / cpc is not listed here, but if it were, it would indicate your paid ads in Google – people who clicked on your ads and reached your site that way.

Most other entries will have a /referral at the end – those are visitors who came to your site from clicking a link on another site. So if you saw in your Analytics, that would mean that your site visitor reached you because he or she clicked our site’s link to you.

Let’s look at those one by one.

If you click on “Direct” in the menu bar, you’ll generate a list of the pages on your site and how many people reached them directly.

If you click on “Search”, you’ll be able to see the keywords that drove your “organic” (regular search results) traffic and “paid” (Adwords, et al.) traffic. It’s helpful to see which keywords people are typing into the search bar that are actually getting visitors successfully to your site.

If you click on “Referrals,” you’ll see the traffic that came via other sites.

What does this chart mean for my future marketing efforts? LinkedIn has been performing pretty well for me – I should probably keep investing effort there, and see if I can make it even more effective by writing and updating my status more, or participating and posting in additional groups. is a blog where I was a regular guest blogger. These visitors would have come through the link in my bio. Seems like my posting on that site is doing the trick – maybe I can post more often?  Maybe I should look for other similar blogs to propose a guest-spot. is a site that I used to manage, and there were some blog comments that referred people to my new site. Maybe there’s a way to get a link on a more obvious page – not just at the end of the comments of a particular post.

Review all your referring sources. Think about how you could better utilize those sources to generate more referrals. And the opposite – if you have been posting and putting in lots of time on a particular site, but there are very few visitors referred from that site, you might want to look elsewhere – or at least refine the way you mention your site over there, to see if you can get more people interested.

Now you know which sources are sending you visitors – people who walk in the door of your virtual store. Bonus points if you can know which sources are sending you converting visitors – people who actually buy. There is a way to do that in Analytics, but it involves setting up Goals… which is a subject for another post.  Stay tuned!

You may not be spending hundreds of dollars on getting your name into different media, like Bob the Brick Businessman. But you likely are spending your precious time to give yourself and your site a presence on other websites. Go into your Analytics and find out how to use your time wisely and profitably. Increase your return on investment.

aviva-smSubmitted by Aviva