What is a Referral Source?

The referral source in web analytics refers to the origin, such as a website or a social media platform, from which traffic is directed to a site through a link.

Knowing the referral source of your traffic is critical as it provides key insight into campaign performance, content strategy, and how visitors are finding your site.

Referral source examples

While referral sources can be categorized in a number of different ways depending on UTM parameters and your analytics provider, here's a list of referral sources that are commonly identified in web analytics:

Direct: Users who type your website URL directly into their browser or use a bookmark to access your site.

Referral: Other websites that link to your site, which could include blogs, news sites, online directories, and forums.

Organic Search: Users who find your site through a search engine query but not through paid advertisements. Common search engines include Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.

Paid Search: Users who click on paid advertisements in search engine results (e.g., Google Ads).

Social: Traffic that arrives from social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and others.

Email: Visitors who click on a link in an email message, assuming the link has been tagged correctly with email parameters or the email system is recognized by the analytics software.