How to Exclude Referral Traffic in Google Analytics GA4

How to Exclude Referral Traffic in Google Analytics GA4

Managing your website’s traffic sources is paramount in the ever-evolving landscape of online analytics. Referral traffic in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is one part of understanding how users find their way to your digital doorstep. But what exactly is referral traffic, and why should you care? 


Whether you’re a budding business or a seasoned online authority, this post will guide you through the ins and outs of referral traffic in GA4, helping you identify which referrals to exclude for more accurate insights. We’ll also walk you through finding and managing referral traffic within your GA4 account, ensuring you can harness the power of your analytics to its fullest potential.


 So, let’s dive in and make the most out of your data!

What is Referral Traffic in GA4?

Referral traffic refers to visitors arriving at your website by clicking links or buttons from other external websites that aren’t tracked by your GA4 account. For businesses just starting, the volume of referral traffic might not be that large. This could be due to the lack of strong ties with other websites or the fact that you’re still developing your SEO strategies.


However, established websites and recognized authorities in their respective fields often get considerable referral traffic. This is usually because other websites, such as blog posts or video descriptions, reference them in their content.


It’s crucial to distinguish referral traffic from other traffic sources, including direct traffic, organic search, paid ads, social media referrals,  email campaigns, and any other domains or subdomains set up for cross-domain tracking. If you notice any domains or websites that should not be considered referral traffic, you can exclude them from the referral sources to correct this.

Which Referrals Should You Remove in GA4?

To effectively manage your Google Analytics 4 data, it’s essential to understand which referrals should be removed. Here are the referrals you should exclude to get the best possible insights: 

  1. A self-referral occurs when traffic comes from pages on your website. By default, Analytics doesn’t consider it a referral if:
  • The referring website is your domain or a subdomain of it.
  • The referral is due to a cross-domain setup, like when a user moves between domains you’ve listed and the current page has the _gl linker parameter.

Usually, this shouldn’t be an issue. Still, some specialists suggest that it wouldn’t hurt to include your domain anyway.

  1. Referrals from payment processing sites like PayPal, Stripe, etc.
  2. Referrals from related websites for tasks like account management or password recovery.
  3. You can also add other partner websites you don’t want to show as a referral and for which cross-domain tracking is not set up.
  4. There are also referrals from spam traffic. Google Analytics works to remove spam traffic from your GA4 account. However, spammers are very creative, and you might still get spam traffic
    occasionally. Do not visit suspicious referral traffic domains; ensure they’re not included in your reports.

Where to Find Referral Traffic in GA4?

To view the traffic coming from external websites in GA4, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to the reporting view.
  2. Click on Reports.
    Screenshot of GA4 reports
  1. Go to Acquisition > Traffic acquisition report.

Reports snapshot

  1. Search for “referral” in the search box. 

referral in GA4

  1. Go to Session Default channel grouping.

referral tracking

  1. Choose Session source/medium from the drop-down menu.

session source medium

And there you have it! Now, you can see referral traffic. 

referral source medium

List Unwanted Referrals

You can manage and categorize domains you don’t want to track as referrals by adding them to the List unwanted referrals in GA4. This feature allows you to prevent certain domains from being reported as referral traffic, ensuring that their traffic is categorized as direct instead. 


When a domain is added to the List Unwanted Referrals, any events from that domain will have the ignore_referrer=true parameter. 

Excluding Unwanted Referrals in GA4

  1. Click on Admin in your GA4.

admin panel

  1. Under the “Property” column, go to “Data Streams.” 

screenshot of data streams in GA4

  1. Select the web data stream identifier for which you wish to set up List unwanted referrals. 

web data streams

  1. Scroll down to “Configure tag settings.” 

Configure tag settings

  1. Click on “Show more.”

Tag settings

  1. Scroll down and choose the “List unwanted referrals” option. 

List unwanted referrals

You’ll be shown an overlay that looks like this:

List unwnted referrals configuration

  1. Input the domain name you want in the “Domain” text box and then click “Save.” 

Entering domain in configuration

  1. If you want to add more domains, click “Add Condition.” 

Adding condition in configuration

  1. Click that button, enter another domain name, and click “Save.”


And there you have it! The traffic from the domains you add won’t appear as referral traffic. 

call to action button

Unlock Success with GA4: Start With a Proper Setup!

We hope our article has simplified the process of excluding referral traffic in GA4! It might seem like a daunting task, but it offers numerous benefits, such as:


  • Precise Data: Your analytics become more accurate, sifting out unnecessary traffic and highlighting what matters.
  • Deeper Understanding: Cleaner data clarifies how your audience engages with your website, giving you actionable insights.
  • Smarter Choices: With this improved data, you can make better-informed decisions to boost your website’s performance.


So, take the first step in optimizing your data, and configure your GA4 settings today! And remember, if you ever need a hand, reach out to our team at Play Media. We’re here to assist with all things GA4 and help you excel online.


Good luck!




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