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How are Traffic Sources defined in Analytics?

Sean Needham avatar


This article provides definitions of the different types of traffic sources displayed in Analytics.

External Referrers (Domains)

External Referrers (Domains) typically refers to external referrers coming from any domain that is not your own.

Depending on the settings of your Analytics site, it could be that you track two or more domains as your own internal domains. You might have this setup done if you own more than one domain and want to do cross-domain tracking.

Example: You own the domains "thisismydomain.com" and "thisismydomain.de" and also "superdomain.com". You are linking between those domains and want to track visitor behavior between them, and you have told Siteimprove to set up all three sites as internal. The external traffic will be traffic from all domains that are not those three internal domains.

External Referring Pages

External Referring Pages are pages on external domains that have referred visitors to your website.

Social Media

Social media and apps that have referred visitors to your website. Traffic from social media is also considered traffic from external referrers.

Search Engines

Traffic coming from search engine referrers, such as Google, Bing, Baidu, Yahoo, etc.

External Search Terms

Search terms that have been used on external search engines to reach your website.

Note: In some cases, external search terms are listed as "Not provided". This occurs when searches are carried out on a secure Google webpage (https) and where the keyword is not passed along when the user clicks on a search result. We are sorry that we cannot provide this information – but it is unfortunately out of our hands.

Direct Traffic

Traffic that has not come from an identifiable external traffic source. These identifiable external traffic sources are usually links that can be clicked on other websites/domains and search engines.

Also, see the article "Behavior Tracking Terminology" for a definition of Direct traffic (first visit) and Direct traffic (returning visit).

Direct traffic occurs in the following cases:

  • visitors coming to your website via links in their email-clients (Outlook, Lotus Notes, etc), including when they click on links in newsletters.
  • visitors coming to your website via clicking on bookmarks in their browser.
  • visitors coming to your website by typing in the URL of your page directly into their browser
  • visitors coming to your website via links from PDFs.
  • visitors coming to your website by clicking on ad banners may also not send a referrer URL depending on their redirect.
  • visitors coming to your website by clicking on shortening URLs can be direct traffic depending on their redirects

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