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Cool insights from Google Analytics Referrals

April 8, 2013 / Digital Marketing / By Kathy Alice

I’ve just started reading Avinash Kaushik’s book: Web Analytics 2.0. Avinash is well known for his insights into the complex world of Web Analytics and his ability to distill complex topics into simple concepts. At the end of Chapter 3 of his book, Avinash lists a couple of questions that all businesses should be able to answer about their web site. The first question “How many visitors are coming to my website?” is pretty straightforward so I won’t spend much time on that one. Investigation into the second question “Where are your visitors coming from?” yielded some cool insights that I will share below.

Where are your visitors coming from?

When I first considered this question, I figured that I already knew the answer. WebEnso gets the majority of it’s traffic from organic traffic (87% over the last 12 months). The keywords are a hodge podge mix of topics and mostly long tail. None of this was new to me. However one rather hugely annoying fact that I did not know, is that a staggering 62% (almost two thirds of my organic search traffic!) of my keywords are hidden from me because they fall into the (not provided) bucket.

not provided in Google Analytics
More than 60% of the keywords used to find my site are hidden from me

For those of you that don’t know about the (not provided) issue (in Omniture it is classified as keyword unavailable), let me provide a brief explanation. Over a year ago Google blocked the passing of the referrer information for all users that were logged into a Google account, ostensibly to protect the user’s privacy. However what that means is that I no longer have access to the keywords that users logged into a Google account used to find my site. Danny Sullivan’s article on “Dark Google” has more information on this rather lamentable topic.

Referrals Google AnalyticsCool Insights from Google Analytics Referrals

So moving on to data that is actually available to me, I explored my Google Analytics Referral Traffic. And found some cool insights.

To find Referrals in Google Analytics: Select Traffic Sources -> Referrals and you will get a list of the websites that have sent you traffic.

One thing I would suggest, especially if you don’t get a lot of referral traffic like me – is to set a long date range, try 12 months.

Date Range in Google Analytics
Use a Long Date Range in Google Analytics

I was surprised to find that I was getting traffic from seomoz.org and wordpress.org among other sites. It turns out that people had posted answers to these sites’ forums citing articles from WebEnso. This was pretty cool and validates what many people say about blogging. Which is: Create compelling content and the traffic and links will come. Now I just need to even more compelling content – and of course a little promotion of it would help too.

How did I find this out? Here is how you find the actual URL of the referring page that has the link to your site on it in Google Analytics.

Referral Path Google-Analytics
Use the Referral Path Dimension to find the URL

  1. Click on the site name in the Referrals list – this will take you to a new page in Google Analytics.
  2. Now click on the Referral Path dimension – this will now show you the page on the referring site that has the link to your site.
  3. To visit the page, click on the little double box to the right of the URL.

Other cool and surprising insights from the Google Analytics referral data.

  • I get more traffic from Facebook than from Twitter. This was very surprising to me because I have put less effort into Facebook than Twitter. I tend to tweet more than Facebook post and my Facebook page has under 100 followers which is only because I put up a “Visit my FB page” button a while back. I don’t like to post technology stuff and my blog posts to my personal Facebook page because I know that most of my Facebook friends (which are real life friends) really don’t want to see it, but perhaps I should re-consider.
  • I get traffic from Google images and a little from Pinterest. This blog is fairly text heavy and most of my images are screenshots so I didn’t think my blog was a natural fit for networks like Pinterest. Maybe I shouldn’t dismiss the traffic potential of the images on my blog quite so quickly.

Google Analytics can be such a gold mine of information, and with some of old standbys going away (keyword data), it pays to dig more into other metrics. It takes just a moment to look into your Referrals in Google Analytics, go ahead and do it now. What did you find?

About the Author Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.

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  1. Hi Kathy, Interesting post and insights gleamed from Google. Just new to blogging myself and am keen to see what information I can get from google analytics once my traffic gets up and running. looks like you have lots of interesting stuff on your blog. keep up the good work

  2. Google Analytics info can be very interesting – it’s how I found out the CIA had popped in for a visit, as had Amazon who read a post about the mail in Italy – shortly before Amazon set up Amazon Italy 😉

    I get more traffic from Twitter than from Facebook, but I’m more active on Twitter and have 13,500 followers which helps a little.

    The keyword info is handy too and now that Google Analytics tells you whereabouts in the results your posts appear – page 1 or page 10 etc, you can tweak posts via a little strategic SEO to raise their visibility, or at least try.

    Yup, I’m a big fan of Google Analytics!

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