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How to exclude Referral traffic in Google Analytics

Google Analytics can be a wonderful source of data for analysis but it’s only useful if the data is “clean” and that the channels are properly set up with UTMs. One mistake that is often made is within the Referral Traffic channel. Setting up the incoming traffic is just as important as excluding some of the traffic. You can find the Referrals data under Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals.

Here are three different scenarios on why excluding traffic is so important.

Scenario A is when a User is in the Shopify Checkout process

  • User selects a payment type such as Paypal
  • User will be directed to the Paypal site
  • User is redirected to the Shopify store after completing the transaction on Paypal

If the traffic from Paypal is not excluded, Google Analytics will then credit the session to Paypal as the referral.

If a store is on the Shopify platform, it will likely have multiple apps for Martech, catalog, sku management, and much, much more.

Scenario B includes a User who lands on a newsletter sign up form created with the popular landing page builder app called Shogun. Since Shogun is a third party app, the session takes the User from the Shopify platform to the app and then is “redirected” back to the Shopify platform. The same is true with form builder Unbounce.

Scenario C includes a User who logs into their account on the Shopify store through an app that allows for Social Logins. Even if the User came after clicking on an ad in Facebook, the Login app will get credit for the Session in Google Analytics.

In both Scenario B and C, these types of apps will be counted as referral traffic and will receive the credit for the conversions. In all scenarios, you will lose sight on which channel actually drove the revenue. Thankfully, there is an easy way to exclude the traffic sources so that the correct channel gets the attribution.

Google Analytics Settings in the Admin

Add in all the sources that need to be excluded under Settings > Admin > Property > Tracking Info > Referral Exclusion List

Be mindful on the set up of new vendors as the data can not be corrected retroactively. Check your Referrals List often and create annotations for any major changes in Google Analytics.

Bonus Annotation Tip: Along with annotating changes in Google Analytics, I also like to use the Annotation tool for listing campaigns whether it’s big promotional events or even down to the more granular email campaigns. It gives a quick visual guide and reference to which events caused spikes in traffic or in revenue without adding in a secondary dimension.


Published by coolfoodhunter

Designing through analytics and intuition.

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