Google Analytics Traffic Sources: Social Network Referrals


Google Analytics Traffic Sources: Social Network Referrals


If you found this article via a web search, I want to preface that I am not a daily user of Google Analytics these days. I have been in the past and really enjoy geeking out over the data when I take the time to log in, but I really only dig around a couple of times a month. Each time I log in, I find some amazing information that Google Analytics is now sharing with us….today my little find was Social Referrals. Awesome.

Social Reports Within Google Analytics

The Google Analytics team launched the new Social reports views back in March of 2012 and then moved those reports under Traffic Sources later in May.

I don’t want to go into a full overview of this tool, you can review those links above for that. But I was excited to find a few great tidbits of information.

Tracking Incoming Links from Social Networks

Measuring the power of social media is not simple. Its more than a matter of incoming links and this first report really only scratches the surface of the power of tracking your social media efforts through Google Analytics, but its a killer place to start.

While in Google Analytics, navigate to Standard Reports > Traffic Sources > Social > Network Referrals. Here, you’ll see a report with the primary dimension as Social Network. These are sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc that link to your website. 

You can, of course, click on each to see the exact links that are followed from the social network to your website.

Finally, you can dive in one more level to see the social referring url that is driving that traffic to your site. This works different for each network, depending on how they handle links. Facebook, for example, shows only whether the referral came from or Other sites with permalinks, such as WordPress or Stack Overflow, will show you the actual link.

This is definitely cool, but leads to what peaked my interest today.

One Way to Use Social Network Data: Drive Content Creation

There are a million ways to use this data. The first, and probably most human-centric, is to use this information to appeal to your content creators.

At InterWorks, I work with a large group of incredibly smart developers and tech consultants — these folks drive our blog with their posts and articles. Developers often use a site called as a great source of information. As a developer, this is where you start with very targeted searches or posts on dev related questions. The best and brightest in development answer questions here and often link to articles where the answer is spelled out in greater detail.

Should I be surprised to find some article from InterWorks listed on StackOverflow?  Of course not.

Google Analytics shows that site has a few pages on our blog featured within some StackOverflow answers:

Nice work guys! Learning that a post you wrote on the InterWorks blog is now cited as a resource on StackOverflow is a great motivator to write more articles and continue to build your online reputation. This is the core goal of social networking and something we push everyday, both internally and with our clients.

Today’s find on Google Analytics Social reporting was the perfect way to prove the effectiveness of a company’s social media efforts and maybe spur some new content.

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More About the Author

Dalton Parsons

Global Director of Strategic Communications
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