Google Analytics Trick: See The Full Referring URL

google analyticsIf you use Google Analytics to track your websites stats, you have probably realized that Google doesn’t let you see the full URL of the sites referring traffic to you. That’s a basic feature that somehow is not included in GA but fortunately for us, there is a simple trick you can implement to display the full URL of the referring site.

Before I explain you this trick, let me give full credit to Ruben Yau for actually coming up with it. I also want to thank Ruben for replying to my comment/question on his blog so quickly.

As stated above, Google Analytics doesn’t let you see from what specific page your visitors are coming.

For example, instead of showing this as the traffic referrer:
http://digg.com/apple/How_to_install_ipa_files_on_iPhone_and_iPod_Touch,

it will just show you this: Digg.com

That’s not very useful information…

The solution to view the full URL of the referring site is to implement a simple hack that uses filters to place the referrer into the User Defined Report.

Instructions:

Go to your Google Analytics account and click on Filter Manager > Add Filter, and enter the following information:

Filter Name: Full Referrer (or whatever you want to call it)
Filter Type: Custom Filter
Advanced
Field A -> Extract A: Referral (.*)
Field B -> Extract B: leave blank
Output To -> Constructor: User Defined $A1
Field A Required: Yes
Field B Required: No
Override Output Field: Yes
Case Sensitive: No

It should look like this:

filter

Now, if you look at your Traffic Sources, you usually see this:

Too see your User Defined Report containing the full information about the referring sites, click on “Visitors” in the nav bar and choose “User Defined”. You should get something like this:

That’s it! Pretty easy, yet very useful.

On his site, Ruben also explains another option involving tweaking the Google Analytics code, but that seemed a little too complex for me, especially given that this method works perfectly.

Now I’d like to see GA implement this without having us use workarounds. That’s a basic feature that should be included in GA by default. Oh well, with Google, it’s take it or leave it, isn’t it?

132 thoughts on “Google Analytics Trick: See The Full Referring URL

  1. Sebastien – this is a great tip – thank you so much. It’s a real help to me when analysing our web traffic.

    Thanks for sharing

  2. @Lex – go to the summary page of all (if several) the websites you’re tracking with Google Analytics. Scroll down to the bottom and look at the right, you will see the “filter manager”

  3. Hello – great post, but I am also getting the (not set) in my reports, in fact it is all I get. Would be great to get some ideas on why this is. Thanks!

  4. I’m also just getting a very large “not set” value on both the Visitors and Referred Sites reports. What are we doing wrong?

  5. The messed up part is that my pages go from 1 of 900 to 1 of 29 as it groups a large part of my referrers as NOT SET.

    If anyone can explain how to work around this I would greatly appreciate it.

  6. I think I realized something guys. Someone try this out and let me know if you think its a possibility.

    NOT SET is for days before you created the filter.

    So I set this yesterday.. anything before yesterday say NOT SET
    Yesterday and today show up.

  7. Cheers for this Sebastien (and Ruben Yau) !

    Its still surprising full referring URLs are not available within GA. This article is a must for analytics data analysers.

    Cheers,

    D

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  12. Does this trick still work? I’ve just tried implementing it on 2 analytics accounts and all I see is one user defined value, which is “(not set)”.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks.

  13. Hi Kieron

    I confirm this trick still works. You must have done something wrong. Make sure you did everything as described in the article.

    Sebastien

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  15. Sebastien, thanks for this post. I followed Ruben’s blog post but maybe I skipped over the part about looking at the the user-defined value inside visitors. This provides such an insight into your traffic and puts bounces/exits into perspective.

  16. I have been using this trick for about 6 months and all of the sudden (April 18, 2010) we are not seeing the referring sites anymore. Everything shows up as “not set”.

    We made no changes to our set up (both in GA and our website).

    Any thoughts? Anybody experiencing the same thing?

  17. Same problem. I used the filter for about 3 months and since last week, around 13 – 14th of April the only thing I get in the User Defined report is (not set). I haven’t made any changes neither to my GA account, or the code on my blog.

    Is this “Trick” now disabled by GA stuff, due to privacy of visitors violation? Like the one with which the IPs of visitors was viewed.

  18. Thank you so much! I am sick of Analytics telling me that someone from a blog came here- where on their blog did they mention me? This was so helpful!

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  21. Hi Sebastien –

    I found your post while looking for a different problem/solution. It’s very well written, and the screenshots are helpful.

    But an observation – can’t you get the same data you’re looking for by going to Traffic Sources > Referring Sites, and then clicking the source for detailed pages?

    For example, on Referring Sites, it might list seoblog.com. But then if I click on that domain, it takes me to the Referring Site detail page, where I could see that I received traffic from /blog-post-1 and /blog-post-2, both being URLs on seoblog.com

    This keeps your data much more tightly organized initially around domains, with the ability to drill down from there.

  22. @Tyler Yes you are correct. Is this something new in Google Analytics? I’m pretty sure this wasn’t an option a year or 2 ago.

  23. Hi Sebastien –

    They probably added that in at some point – I’m not sure when. Hope it was helpful to the discussion.

    Cheers,
    Tyler

  24. Thanks, exactly what I’ve been looking for!

    For everyone that thinks it may be broken, I thought the same thing. Then when I saw the Google Analytics blog referred to this blog (http://analytics.blogspot.com/2010/06/web-analytics-tv-10-with-avinash-and.html) I figured his solution had to be right.

    When you’re looking at your referring sites you may have to click on the first dropdown, default set to ‘Source’ and change it to ‘User Defined Value’. Poof, there they are! :)

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  28. Brilliant tip Sebastien..thankyou. Only just started with GA, so it will be great to get this in place right at the beginning

  29. What a life saver. Thanks for the great step by step. This may be the first “how to” I’ve seen with screenshots, and it makes it so clear. Thanks, I’m testing it right now. I’m not sure if it works on past data, or only on newly collected data. We’ll see…
    -Per

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  31. Still wondering why google doesn`t include the full referrer url in the stats. It`s a basic information need. Thanks for the tutorial, works great!

  32. This is helpful and seems it is something my company setup a while back. However I am seeing a large % of ‘Other’ being listed even more so than ‘not set’. Has anyone seen this and determined a way to break out what ‘other’ is? Not sure why 48% of the data is under ‘other’. Seems something is missing?

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  34. i have a feedburner account, i want to see the referring url. Can any one please help me out how to see the full referring url in my feedburner account?

  35. I’ve been searching in google for some items and fortuitously found your http://www.sebastienpage.com site. I feel that you are an expert at your field! I am going to launch a website soon, and your blog will be very useful for me. Thanks for the excellent work and wishing you the success in your business.

  36. Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this blog. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s hard to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and visual appeal. I must say you have done a very good job with this. In addition, the blog loads extremely quick for me on Internet explorer. Outstanding Blog!

  37. Kan ik gewoon even zeggen dat het fijn is om eindelijk eens iemand te vinden op het internet die echt weet waarover hij praat. Meer mensen zouden dit moeten lezen en het voorbeeld moeten volgen. Kortom, goed bericht! Ik ga deze website dan ook in mijn favorieten zetten.

  38. Even that I’m not agree with some points and comment in the article I found this page content important, I really want to thank the writer and the contributors for this informative page

  39. I can confirm this still works as of today. And no, you will not be able to see referring URLs from the time period before you made this filter. It only gets applied to new traffic.

    Why is the referring URL such a big secret? This should be one of the core functions of GA. Specific knowledge of where sales are originating from is the grail of tracking.

    Thanks for this article, it was exactly what I was looking for. :-)

  40. i know im 2 years late with this post, but why are all my referral sites still saying (not set) after I completed these steps?!

  41. Thanks for the huge helpful information. I have been looking for this for a long time. But nobody knows. You definitely have done a great job. Thanks again.:)

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  44. Hi Sebastian,

    This is a great post and nice discovery. I have not had the opportunity to compare the process within GA v5 but I am sure the steps should not vary. I will take a look and share if I see something different. And I would like to share your tip on my Zimana Blog site.

    Thanks again for the tip.

    Pierre DeBois

  45. Hi Sebastien,

    Thanks for posting this, even though it’s no longer working :)

    Might you spend a minute and update the blog post? The “Filter Manager” is no longer there in the Google Analytics interface, and the “User Defined Value” that Matt mentions doesn’t work either (it shows “not set”).

    Also, it would be great if you removed the useless/spam comments that only want to draw traffic to their sites (e.g. “thats nice one” by dizzyfilms, and many others that only say generic stuff like your blog has a nice template)

  46. I found the filter settings, however I see absolutely no link to Visitors in the nav bar for GA. I set the filter up and can’t find how to run it now. ??? Anyone?

  47. One note- after creating the filter, at the very bottom I had to choose which analytics profile I wanted to apply the filter to. Even though I am only using one profile, I had to select it and click “add” before the settings would be applied. It took me a day of trying to figure out why the results still said “not set” before I figured it out! Hope that helps someone else.

    Otherwise- thank you so much! It seems like such an obvious thing to be included and I’m grateful I found this answer. :)

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  49. We tried to do as described above but are getting “not set” as the result. When we looked for the “add” button to click on for the analytics profile we did not see one. Where is it located in the new Google Analytics interface?

    All we saw is add and we did add the filter which did not resolve anything as it kept saying “not set” fr the results.

    Can anyone guide us in the right direction?

    Thank you.

  50. The messed up part is that my pages go from 1 of 900 to 1 of 29 as it groups a large part of my referrers as NOT SET.

    If anyone can explain how to work around this I would greatly appreciate it.

  51. Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this blog. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s hard to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and visual appeal. I must say you have done a very good job with this. In addition, the blog loads extremely quick for me on Internet explorer. Outstanding Blog!

  52. Not working. Google Analytics looks completely different now (some rebranding baloney). I get “(not set)” when selecting “User Defined” when I have added the filter on the Admin page. Anybody know how to get the results to appear for “full referral”?

  53. Nevermind. I figured it out. I had to create a custom report with metric of “Visitors->Visits” then dimension drill down to referral path.

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  55. Hey jason it works amd I think you might need to go to following path to see the full referal urls.

    audience -> custom -> user defined

    hope this helps

    Dhanesh Mane

  56. Hey I have applied the filter on one site and Its working fine for that site. Then I have applied the same on other site by existing filter option and its not working there, any idea?

    when I check user defined value from audience , it shows $A$1 :)

    any idea?

    Thanks
    Dhanesh Mane

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  67. hi

    i used audience tab in new analytics interface as visitors tab does not exist and the “User Defined Value” doesn’t work either (it shows “not set”).

  68. How do we do this in the new version of Google Analytics? The user defined thing is not working.

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  75. Hai i done with that filter setting and i am not able to see that data. user defined data is not visible where can i get user defined data??? and where i find visitors??

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