5 Things You Can Learn by Drilling Down on Traffic Sources in Google Analytics

Feb 3, 2012   //   by Kristi Hines   //   SEO Blog, SEO tools  //  26 Comments

Did you know there is more to the Referral Traffic Sources in your Google Analytics than just the referral domains themselves? Here are a few things you can learn by clicking on some of the domains listed under your Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals.

What Twitter User Really Sends You Traffic & Your Most Popular Posts on Twitter

Want to find out who is really sending the most traffic to your website via Twitter? Look no further than the t.co domain in your Traffic Sources. When you click on this, you will see the specific t.co links that have led visitors to your website.

T.co Referral Paths

Copy the Referral Path listed, then paste it into your browser after http://t.co so you can go to the post or page that it references. In another tab (if you don’t have this already), install the Topsy Trackbacks bookmarklet on your bookmarks toolbar. Then go to the tab with your post and click on the Topsy bookmarklet. You will now see most of the tweets for your page in Topsy.

Topsy Trackbacks

When you get to the All posts about this link section, scroll to the bottom and click on the more link until you’ve pulled most of the tweets for your post (which could take a while, depending on how many times the page has been tweeted). Then use your browser’s Find on Page (CTRL + F) and paste in the Referral Path again. It should take you to one (or more) tweets with the t.co link that you pulled from Google Analytics. The first person who tweeted it is the source of your Twitter traffic!

Influential Retweets

In my case, it was Dave Larson of TweetSmarter that I had to thank for the most traffic from Twitter for my post on how to start a blog on WordPress.

Going back to your Referral Paths from t.co, you can also use this to see which posts on your site get the most Twitter traffic. Simply click on the Secondary dimension dropdown and select Landing Page under Traffic Sources.

Secondary Dimension Dropdown in Google Analytics

This will show you the posts each t.co link references.

Landing Pages

Pages with Traffic from Image Search

Curious what posts or pages on your website get the most traffic from Google Images search? Find out by clicking on the google.com domain in your traffic sources and then click on the /imgres Referral Path. Next, use the Secondary dimension dropdown and, again, select Landing Page under Traffic Sources.

Google Image Traffic

Be sure to check out the images on those pages to see if you can use similar images for future posts / pages on your site for more image related traffic!

Guest Posts, Comments, or Crowdsourcing

When you’re looking at your Traffic Sources, it’s easy to tell which source is related to your guest posting, commenting, or sites you contribute answers to for crowdsourced posts. If you do multiple activities on one site, then you need to click on that site’s domain and drill down to the Referral Paths to see which activity gets the best results from that site.

Referral Paths

By drilling down on my own referral traffic from Social Media Examiner, I could see that it comes from a variety of things, including one guest post, making their top blog list, a crowdsourced post, and a link left to one of my posts in the forums.

LinkedIn Shares, Groups, Answers, or Company Pages

If you are active on LinkedIn and take advantage of different things such as sharing your posts on your profile, LinkedIn groups, LinkedIn Answers, or on your company page, then you will probably want to know which of those activities bring the most traffic to your website. Click on linkedin.com in your Traffic Sources to see the following.

LinkedIn Traffic

Here, I can see that the most traffic comes from shares within groups (/news), followed by status updates (/home, /profile/view, and /share), more group shares (/groupItem), and Answers (/groupAnswers).

Most Popular Posts on StumbleUpon

It’s tough to find things on StumbleUpon sometimes, including which posts from your own sites are the most popular on their network. If you want to see which posts on your site get the most StumbleUpon traffic, click on stumbleupon.com in your Traffic Sources, then click on the refer.php Referral Path. Next, use the Secondary dimension dropdown and, again, select Landing Page under Traffic Sources.

StumbleUpon Traffic

Now you can see which posts have driven the most StumbleUpon traffic over the last year. This is great to reference when you are determining what new content you want to create and how it will fare on the SU network. Going forward, with the latest changes to the SU networks, you will just look at any links starting with /su/ in the Referral Paths.

If you enjoyed this post be sure to check out basic Google analytics tips.

Do you go deeper into your Google Analytics Traffic Sources? What other discoveries have you found about your referral traffic?

Similar Posts:

Kristi Hines

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. Don't miss her Web Domination Review on Kikolani. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!

More Posts - Website

"Newsletter" Our weekly newsletter features some of the best curated SEO content from around the web!

Comment Policy

  • Robert Anderson says:

    That was a very informative post. Are there anything more that we can learn by drilling down the traffic sources?

    Thanks for sharing.


  • Kevin

    Great info! We use (and love) a product by S2R Solutions called SIteWatch – it monitors our social activity and presents us with Social ROI as it relates to web traffic. From there we can back into a dollar amount ROI.

    Whatever platform you use, people need to USE it. You cannot make educated decisions on marketing activities unless you are actually, well, educated. ๐Ÿ™‚

    The main issue we have with GA is the presntation of the massive amount of data it collects. Our executives need quick access to data thats important to them. Thats one of the reasons we moved to a different analytics provider.

    All in all, great article! Thank you

    • Kristi Hines

      Have you tried setting up dashboards? That way they can get to reports they want from one place?

      • Kevin

        Why fuss with setting anything up. The solution we use has it already setup. No need to waste time setting up a dash for us.

        We used to use GA and have s a few people

      • Kevin

        Why fuss with setting anything up. The solution we use has it already setup. No need to waste time setting up a dash for us.

        We used to use GA and have spent a tremendous amount of time drilling and setting up features. We’re just ecstatic we found our solution that fits our analytical needs AND provides the “dash” we need.

        The reality is GA could have provided it but why should we bother when we get it out of the box.

        As I said before, no matter what solution you use, it’s no good if you don’t actually use it.

  • Marbella says:

    Hi Kristi,
    All statistics are great if you can use it right. For example, the articles that you think are most popular, maybe is not. Some keywords have people searched more on than you thought, etc.

  • Amber says:

    These are all awesome tips. Thank you very much. Already installed the Topsy Trackbacks bookmarklet – that’s going to be worth it’s weight in gold!

  • Keana B. says:

    I really think that twitter could enhance the traffic to your site. But there are many other sites aside from the ones mentioned here. Which social media site do you think is the best source of traffic to any website alike?

    Thanks for the step by step guide. I would follow them avidly.


    • Kristi Hines

      For me, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and StumbleUpon are the best traffic sources. Depends on your content though. I hear blogs with image based content are doing really well with traffic from Pinterest. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ray says:

    Tell you the truth I don’t spend nearly as much time with analytics and stats as I probably should. I have seen imgres before and didn’t realize it was from a Google image search. I admit I am not to old to learn something new.

  • Dan Lew

    These are nice things that we can track down the sources of traffic we are receiving. Google Analytics is really a big help for us to drill down the traffic sources that my blog and niche sites received.

    Dan Lew

  • James

    Analytical data can provide so much insight from readily available information it’s almost unreal. Surprisingly though, not many of the people I’ve come across that own websites actually drill down and use the facts enough. How long until search engines start using this data in their algorithms more? They may already, but I would assume it’s not done to a big extend considering there is still a lot of poor quality results occupying top positions.


  • Thanks Kristi,

    I have been using Google Analytics for years and considered myself a pro at it, but I never knew I could see the referral path and check the links I get from images. Thanks for the helpful tips.


  • […] many sides. Though itโ€™s a new entrant in the social arena, itโ€™s fast turning into a potential sources of traffic for a wide range of businesses. According to a recent report by Shareaholic, Pinterest is now […]

  • Samuel says:

    I am not really used too these sort of statistics, I am confused really seeing them.

  • Mark Volan says:

    Statistics is something which I really have problem understanding…. I have tried my best to figure it out but not successful all the time.

  • Sam Rathin says:

    Well I am not really used to Google analytic.. I really don’t understand Google Algorithm at all…

  • Tobi

    Thanks for sharing,
    Topsy is a great tool and since added to my arsenal I have learned a lot about my traffic sources.
    This is a great tutorial.

  • Sarah says:

    Thanks for the article – I’m also one of the guilty ones who doesn’t spendy nearly enough time perusing my analytics…though when I do I’m afraid I become victim to paralysis by analysis! Thanks again.

  • Shadab

    When I go through our referrals on my analytics we don’t find any URL t.co because I don’t have enough followers, but you tutorial guide me, and will make the benefits in the future.

  • Jenny says:

    It’s your second post that I really learned something from. Thank you for sharing!
    I’ve got a quick question though, I cannot see the “Referral Path” in the current version of GA and the closest equivalent seems to be “Source”. Is that correct?

  • Sylvia

    Thank you for the tips on drilling into the data! Always interested in finding out what my customers like so I can build on that.

  • Lorenzo says:

    I’ll have to check out the Topsy bookmarklet further. Ran a couple searches on Google but they brought me to broken links.