When to Update Your Referral Exclusion List in Google Analytics?

Written by Michael Wilson

Michael is the Digital Analytics Director at GlowMetrics, implementing complex tracking for our largest clients via Google Tag Manager while leading our wider analytics work across Google Analytics, Data Studio and Optimize.
January 31, 2019

One of the most common issues that we come across happens when an e-commerce website has a payment portal that temporarily redirects the user to a third-party site to process their payment, then brings them back to the website again to confirm their order.

The issue? The original source of the traffic is lost, because the user’s session is ended when they leave the main site to go to the payment portal, and a new session is started when they return and see the order confirmation screen. This means that when looking at Conversions in Google Analytics, the traffic source of the conversion is listed as the payment portal website.

This means that if you’re spending lots of money on marketing campaigns (e.g. Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc), you can’t attribute those sales back to your ad spend because the original referrer information has been lost and the payment portal is incorrectly credited with the conversion.

The fix is (usually) a relatively simple one – updating the Referral Exclusion List in Google Analytics. This means that any domains added here will be ignored by Google Analytics – so a minor detour to a payment portal will not end the user session and create a new one, meaning that the original referrer information is retained.

Note: there’s no need to add subdomains here, any domain added here will automatically include subdomains.

It’s important to ensure this is updated often as new payment methods and platforms are increasingly becoming available to customers so if you haven’t checked your Referral Exclusion List recently, it might be a good idea to do so.


How do I know if I need to update my Referral Exclusion List?

Look at your conversion reports, add a secondary dimension for the source/medium and if anything looks like a payment portal or banking website, you should almost certainly add it.

Referrers to be Excluded - Referral Exclusion List in GA

Once this is done, you’ll be able to accurately see the true source of traffic generating your sales and conversions on your site.

Having problems updating your Referral Exclusion List? Not sure what to add? Get in touch, we’re always happy to help.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Enjoyed reading this article? Find more like it below…