Marketing Reporting Survival Guide: 5 Tips to Improve Google Analytics Referral Traffic Reports

In the age of inbound marketing, referral traffic to your website can be make or break for your business.

Success hinges on your ability to deliver the right content to the right buyer in the right online channel at the right time. That means sharing helpful, engaging content across blogs, social media and earned media to attract visitors to your website. In turn, the visitors consume information and convert to leads.

Google Analytics can provide insight into which sites drive the most traffic, and thus are most effective in your promotional and distribution efforts, but creating a meaningful report is not easy. Google Analytics does not allow for detailed filtering or combining reports, nor does it recognize variations in source URLs, so manually cleaning up, filling in and blending data takes time – time that marketers could be using to execute campaigns and devise new strategies.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five tips for building better Google Analytics referral reports with self-service data prep.

  1. Access the data automatically

Any marketer will tell you that generating a Google Analytics report, exporting it and then trying to clean it up can be painful. It is manual and time-consuming, but a self-service data prep tool can speed things up by connecting directly to Google Analytics and automatically pulling up-to-date data into a workspace.

  1. Clean the data

Google Analytics referral reports do not recognize variations in URLs coming from the same source – such as, and – making it hard to get an accurate top-line view of which channels are performing best. Data prep enables you to easily associate sources to channels and filter out spam links and any organic searches that might slip through.

  1. Ditch the VLOOKUP and pivot tables

Since Google Analytics doesn’t do detailed filtering or blending of multiple report views, marketers end up manually manipulating data in Excel with formulas, macros, VLOOKUPs and pivot tables. Beyond the time sink, this can be prone to error and not easily repeatable whenever updates are needed. Data prep lets you skip the hard part, add in additional data like time and date fields, track changes and automate the report.

  1. Rate and improve performance

Referrals show visits to your website that originated from an outside, non-search engine source and provide a clearer indication of which marketing activities or campaigns are effective to help pinpoint where you should multiply efforts. Two ways to improve referral rates (and SEO): Increase links from other sites and maintain an active and engaged social presence.

  1. Curate for the big picture

As with any marketing activity, it is the outcome – traffic, conversions, opportunities and sales – that provides the most marketing insight, and your reporting needs to reflect this. Roll Google Analytics insights into a comprehensive dashboard for your overall marketing strategy to determine ROI and prove marketing’s contribution to achieving revenue and business goals.