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Traffic Sources and Google Analytics

In this article, we explain what a traffic source is and how Google Analytics identifies and classifies them in order to built a report which later we will use for taking marketing decisions.

What is a traffic source?

Classifying the traffic sources is a way of knowing the origin from our visits. Therefore, traffic sources is the name we give to register and classify the sources from where our visits have come. In Marketing, we use the obtained information to measure and improve our marketing strategies and campaigns. 

Classifying traffic sources in GA (Google Analytics)

If we are classifying our visits regarding where they came from is because we are using a web analytics tool such as GA. The most common classification given to the different traffic sources is the following: 

  • Referral: All those visits that come from a source which is not a search engine.
  • Direct:  All the traffic that comes from a direct search.
  • Emailing: The traffic we obtain from emailing such as newsletters.
  • Organic: All the traffic coming from search engines in organic search results.
  • PPC: The traffic obtained through the ads we pay in search engines such as Google or Bing.
  • Social Media: All the traffic which comes from social networks such as Facebook or Instagram.
  • Affiliation Networks: All the traffic we gain from banners or ads coming from our affiliates websites.

How does Google Analytics classifies our traffic sources?

Google Analytics is capable of identifying the source of our visits through the GA tracking code or SDK (for mobile devices). Each time a user enters our site, GA activates and reads the parameters from this visit in order to identify from where the visit comes from. Keep in mind that Analytics visits are counted as sessions and that they do not match with the number of clicks received on Adwords. The reason is that each session can be solely attributed to one campaign or traffic source, so once those values are sent to GA and if we are in a session in progress, this one will end and another one will begin. 

As we have said before, each visit is checked by GA in order to identify the source and transform it into valuable information. In order to identify the source, Analytics follows the following pattern:

Google Analytics traffic sources classification.

Google Analytics traffic sources classification.

As we can identify in the picture above, first of all GA checks for the gclid or gclsrc (parameter which tell us if they come from Google Adwords or DoubleClick). If it turns out there are non of these parameters, the second phase will be to identify whether there is any parameter named campaignSource. If not, the next phase will be to check for custom UTM, if there are not UTM, Analytics will proceed to seek for the referrer. If not found, it will check for information from a previous visit to our website. If finally there is no information available, Analytics will count this visit as a direct traffic.

Custom UTM

UTM are used to customized the dimensions of our campaigns and also to give them an easier language when classifying our visits. If we want to give custom parameters to our URL we should visit URL Builder, from there, we will design our custom parameters. The aim of those utm is that every time a user clicks on one of our links, analytics will take the data info from those parameters to build our reports. The custom utm we have to use for that are the following:

  • utm_source: Mandatory parameter used to identify the search engine (e.g utm_source=google)
  • utm_medium: Mandatory parameter which identify the source from which the link has been send (e.g utm_medium=cpc)
  • utm_term: It identifies the keyword which has trigger our ad and has made the user to click on it. (e.g utm_term=running+shoes)
  • utm_content: This utm is used to distinguish ads or campaigns with the same url (e.g utm_content=campaignbrand)
  • utm_campaign: Mandatory parameter which identifies the source from the click from campaign name (e.g utm_campaign=promo_rebajas)

All your stats in a single platform.

Adinton latest update shows you all your traffic sources based on your custom utms. Therefore, there is no need to insert redirs in your url. Instead, Adinton will take the utm you have fixed previously in order to give you all your traffic source info. Remember that with Adinton not only you are able to see in a single panel how your online marketing campaigns perform,but also you can optimize them (automatic rules, behavioural rules, marketing insights, attribution modeling…)  in order to shorten your customer journey and obtain higher benefits.


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