Referral traffic is, generally, traffic from other websites that contain one or more links to your site.
Proper implementation of referral traffic allows you to understand which other websites are bringing traffic to your site, so you can evaluate the quality of this traffic and understand how to optimize it.
It often happens that, by analyzing referral traffic reports, you find “strange” websites, for example your domain (yes!), or payment platforms such as paypal.com that you use in the sellout funnel.
This problem needs to be corrected, to allow you to understand which websites are really bringing you traffic and which are “fake” and which you need to exclude.
In this post I’ll show you how to exclude these websites and prevent GA4 from showing them to you in its reports.
This post assumes you already have a property for Google Analytics 4. If you don’t have GA4 yet, read my post to find out how to create a new Google Analytics 4 property in just a few clicks.
What happens to the traffic considered referrals
To give you a further detail, when we indicate to Google Analytics 4 all the domains we want to exclude, GA4 will add a particular parameter.
By adding a certain domain in the referrals list, it will happen that:
- Google Analytics adds the ignore_referrer parameter to the domain,
- this parameter is given the value true.
When the domain is in the exclusion list, it will have as an event the addition of the condition ‘ignore_referrer = true‘ so it will not appear as a Referral in the reports, as also explained in the Google guide.
Referral Traffic in Google Analytics 4
First I show you where you can analyze referral traffic within GA4.
Let click on Acquisition > Traffic Acquisition
Scroll the page to find the report, then write ‘referral‘ to filter the traffic that contains the word you typed:
As we can already see in this example, the domain of my website (dataenthusiast.it) is found within the referrals.
To avoid this situation, let’s see how to do it in the next steps.
Referral Exclusion in Google Analytics 4
To exclude the domains we don’t want to appear in our reports, go to Admin:
We select the Data Stream item under the Property column:
Next, we select the Data Stream that interests us:
Once selected, scroll down the page to the bottom and click on the More Tagging Settings item:
From the list, click on List Unwanted Referrals to enter the box where you can enter the domains we want to exclude:
Once inside, we enter the domain or all the domains that we do not want GA4 to consider as referrals:
You can, at any time, add more domains or delete some, simply by clicking on the Add condition items or on the “–” sign:
Referral Exclusion in Google Tag Manager
As previously written, what happens excluding referrals is that the value true is added to the ignore_referrer parameter.
Through Google Tag Manager it is possible to exclude only some referrals using this rule and entering this information directly in the tag:
Concrete Examples of Referral Exclusion
Some concrete cases, in which you can find yourself and where it is necessary to insert the domains within this list, can be:
- your own domain appears in the referral report: it is one of the cases in which it is necessary to exclude it, to avoid that your reports are not qualitative;
- use of a payment platform (e-commerce, but not only): in cases of product sales, we rely on platforms that manage the payment. In these cases the user leaves your website to enter the platform that manages payments (eg Paypal) and is then redirected back to your website to complete the transaction. Precisely to prevent these sites (eg paypal.com) from appearing as Referrals, it is necessary to exclude them;
- user interactions managed by third-party platforms: third-party platforms are often used to manage the sending of emails. When the user clicks on the links of these emails (eg: a change of password or a confirmation of registration) it is possible that these third-party domains appear in your reports. To avoid this, you will need to enter these domains in the Unwanted Referral List.