website traffic . . .

What Referral Means in Google Analytics

Referral in Google Analytics refers to visits to your website from other websites. In technical terms, referrals are backlinks pointing to your website from other websites. So, every backlink you have earns you referral traffic. The originating site is known as the “referrer”.

Referral traffic is one of the 3 types of traffic tracked by Google Analytics. The rest 2 are organic traffic and direct traffic.

Before you can view/track your referral traffic, you will need to log into your Google Analytics account. On the left pane, navigate to ACQUISITION > ALL TRAFFIC > SOURCE/MEDIUM > REFERRALS. A graph auto generates that displays your referral traffic over a one month period.

Referral Traffic
Referral Traffic in Google Analytics

Further below the graph, you will find a table with names of domains referring traffic to your website. There you will also find the statistics of how referred visitors reacted to your site. A referral source refers to domains referring traffic to your site.

What is Source/Medium in Google Analytics?

Source/medium report in Google analytics measures performances of different traffic sources based on the following:

  •       Acquisition
  •       Behavior
  •       Conversions

This menu gives a complete report of all traffic sources alongside their medium.


source/medium in google analytics
Source/medium in Google Analytics

In the Google Analytics report above:

google/organic – “google” is the traffic source and “organic” is the medium

(direct)/(none) – “direct” is the traffic source and “none” is the medium – “” is the source and “referral” is the medium.

Having seen what source/medium means in Google Analytics, let’s see what the referral channel or channels generally mean in Google Analytics.

There could be some sort of confusion between how a medium and channel are different in Google Analytics. However, with the guide below, you can always tell the difference.

What is a Referral Channel?

In Google Analytics, a channel also known as a marketing channel refers to a group of traffic sources having the same medium.

Referral Channel
Referral Channel in Google Analytics

Default Marketing Channels in Google Analytics include:

  • Organic Search
  • Direct
  • Paid Search
  •  Display
  • Referral
  • Social
  • Email
  • Other

What is a referral channel in Google Analytics? Referral channel is made up of all traffic sources whose medium is through referral. Examples of referral traffic include:

All what the above traffic have in common is their medium which is “referral”.

What Does Facebook Referral Mean in Google Analytics?

If you track all your traffic sources using Google analytics, you probably have come across the source/medium, “”.  That is a Facebook referral. What that means is that the traffic is coming from Facebook and the traffic medium is by referral. In other words, a link of your website on Facebook was clicked to visit your website.

How Do I Increase My Referral Traffic

Google Analytics helps you to track all traffic sources to your website in a matter of seconds. If you notice an unexploited traffic gap, you can do off-page SEO to increase your overall traffic. Although generating referral traffic might not be a walk in the park for a beginner, it is not completely impossible to achieve.

Below are some helpful tips you can work with to increase your referral traffic.

1. Do Guest Blogging

One characteristic successful bloggers have in common is their ability to network. In the world of blogging, a network of other bloggers can get you places you would not get to in months or years if you decide to go alone.

Guest blogging is one of the things successful bloggers do. It is a type of networking that allows you to expose your profile to a different audience on your host’s blog. At the end of the day, the goal is to generate referral traffic.

Guest blogging allows you to stay in control of your host’s content. While you serve up unique contents to your host’s audience, you can include helpful links to additional information on your blog.

2. Get Listed on Review Sites

90% of consumers read online reviews before making the decision to buy from a business. What does that tell you about review sites? Consumers will turn to review sites to get information about a brand.

Having a lot positive reviews online convinces potential customers that you’re a brand to be trusted. found that 72% of consumers will take action after reading a positive review.

3. Utilize the Power of Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest are the top social media being utilized by inbound marketers.

Beyond creating the cliché buzz around your brand, social media can help you generate referral traffic for your website. Any content posted that is liked or shared by others is an opportunity to generate more referral traffic to your website. If people love or find your contents helpful, they will most likely click to visit your website for additional information.

Social media efforts don’t only increase your referral traffic; it indirectly improves your search ranking. More than 58% marketers using social media reported improved search ranking.

4. Comment on Other Blogs

Commenting on other blogs that allow links in the comment section is a great way to generate referral traffic for your website. Answering commenters’ questions or just contributing to blog discussions allows you to share your wealth of knowledge with others while pointing them to additional information on your blog. It is important that you do not spam others but only leave comments that help users.

5. Contribute to Industry Forums

Contributing to blogs without sounding too promotional is a great way to leave helpful backlinks that generate referral traffic to your site.

Just like blog commenting, it is important that you contribute meaningfully and share only information that is helpful for users. There most certainly wouldn’t be any helpful information a read more link to a tech blog will have for a pet blog.

6. Answer Questions on Google Question Hub

Providing answers to questions real people are asking on Google search engine is a great way to generate referral traffic for your website. Google Question Hub allows you to point readers to a link on your website containing information about their search.

7. Submit Your Website to Online Directories

Submitting your website to relevant industry directories is a great way to generate referral traffic for your website.

While you cannot submit your website to every directory out there, how do you know which ones to submit to? recommends doing a local search of top directories in your location if you’re a local business. For example, a search of “pet stores in Ontario” reveals and as some top directories you can work with.

pet stores in ontario

8. Publish Infographics

Studies have shown that people will consume an infographic better and faster than a bunch of text. Infographics help people read up and comprehend complex information with minimal effort.

Apart from your website, websites like pinterest, etc allow you to publish infographics and pictures with a link back that generates referral traffic to your site.

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