How To Find Out Where Your Website Visitors Are From Using Google Analytics

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Google Analytics has advanced to a level that it’s now possible to tell the exact source of the web traffic you’re driving. With this stat, you have the perfect opportunity to pull in even more traffic and come up conceivable ways to keep your online visitors more engaged.

Every marketer needs to know the most profitable source of the traffic they’re getting. This is important as it gives them a better idea of where to pump in the bulk of their online marketing effort and time.

Google knew about this when they decided to include an Acquisition Reports section in their Google analytics platform. They knew there’s so much you could do with the traffic acquisition data provided, so they made it available to every online marketer concerned about their web traffic and where it’s coming from.

This blog post explores all the possible ways to make the most out of this one every important Google analytics segment.

We’ll start by walking you through the basics – like how to find the acquisition reports section from your Google analytics dashboard. Next, we’ll try to explore each and every section of the tool, taking necessary detours along the way to share invaluable pieces of information on how best you can use the feature to better your marketing strategy.

Now without further ado, let’s jump straight in and get started

Accessing the Google Analytics Acquisition Reports Section

The Acquisition segment of your Google analytics features 10 different reporting sections. Key among them is the Acquisition section, which shows you the exact source of your web traffic. It can even break down the results you get to tell you the number of visitors you’re getting from search engines, web referrals, and social networks.

You can thereafter use the information presented to determine which online marketing strategy is bound to drive the highest levels of traffic to your website.

To access the tool, log into your Google analytics account and head straight to the menu on your left-hand side bar. You should be able to see the Acquisition Report.

Acquisition Overview

The first thing you’ll notice about this one very important feature is that it gives you a rundown of all the channels directing online visitors to your website, together with their associated behaviours, acquisition and conversion details. That’s what you get to see when you click through the overview menu item of the segment.

If you had earlier on set Google Analytics goals, the report will also be showing you your conversion rate from the various channels. For instance, you’ll be able to tell if majority of the traffic you’re getting is coming from the custom campaigns you’re running or if they’re from your referral channel and other websites.

Here’s a list of all the top channels the tool uses to track down the source of your web traffic:

Organic Search

This is the number of visitors relying on search engine results to find your website. The traffic you get in this manner comes mostly from the SEO effort you applied earlier on. Meaning, the higher you rank on the SERPs on various keywords, the greater the number of visitors you’ll be attracting through organic search.

Paid Search

This accounts for the number of visitors you’re able to drive to your website through paid ads, particularly Google AdWords and PPC.

Direct Traffic

This accounts for all the visitors who don’t land to your site by chance. These are people who know what your site is actually involved with, based on their past interactions or recommendations from other users. So they’ll just enter your website’s url into the address bar or use a link they had earlier on bookmarked to load it up.

Referral Traffic

Referral visitors account for all the visitors you attract from other sites. Usually these sites will have a link that their visitors can click through and be directed to your site based on the mutual agreement the two of you have.

Social Traffic

As the name suggests, social traffic encapsulates every single one of the visitors you’re able to direct to your site via the various social networks you know, particularly Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to name a few.


This applied mostly to those that use UTM parameters to create custom campaign tracking.

Acquisition Channels

Channels operate in an almost similar manner as Acquisition Overview, save for also featuring a series of graphs expounding on the behaviour, acquisition and conversion details of the visitors you’re attracting.

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You’re allowed to click on any of the channel links presented to dig out for more information and further clarification on the data presented.

For instance, when you click on Organic Search, you’ll be presented with a detailed keyword report; whereas the direct channel is designed to give you a rundown of the landing pages attracting the most traffic.

For referrals, expect to be walked through the top referral sites. Same with social, which takes you through top referring social media networks.

All Traffic

The ‘all traffic’ section is designed to give you an overarching overview of the traffic you’re attracting. It does this by combining all the channels involved for a traffic summation.

Instead of separating individual channels, the ‘all traffic’ section feature of the analytics tool combines all the sources directing visitors to your site for a detailed analysis and comparison.

With this feature, you can quickly analyze the different sources of your web traffic. This is important in finding out the biggest source of your site traffic. It even narrows down to the specifics of the channels in question. For instance, you can use it to tell which specific social network or search engine drives the most traffic.

All Referrals

The ‘All referrals’ channel ignores all the other channels to focus on the number of visitors you’re attracting through referrals. What happens is that it lists all the domain names referring visitors to you, how many they are, and loads of other details.

When you click through each one of the domains presented, you’ll also be shown the specific pages the visitors land to upon clicking through the referrals links. Works better if your referral link is a blog. By clicking through the domain link presented, you’ll be directed to the specific page sending majority of the traffic you’re getting on your site.


The campaign section is meant to track visitors landing to your site from the campaigns you created or from a third party application — if there’s one that is.

Campaigns are designed to use UTM parameters, attached at the end of your site URL or any other URL that your visitors are expected to click on.

To keep track of your campaigns, three things are expected from you. 

i. Your campaign name or UTM campaign.

ii. Your Traffic Source or URM source

iii. Your Campaign Medium or UTM medium

With campaigns, you’ll be presented with a detailed record of all the visitors landing on your website together with where they’re visiting your site from, including the links on an email you sent them earlier on.


The keywords report walks you through a list of keywords your visitors used to find your website – both organic and paid.

Google made a decision to encrypt keyword data NOT long ago. Meaning majority of the keywords your visitors are using will be marked as ‘NOT provided’. So expect this feature NOT to be that useful to your campaigns, unless otherwise.

To dig out for organic search keywords, it’s advisable to use some other tool such as Google Webmaster or a third party search query tool such as HitTail to name a few.

None of these tool is advanced well enough to help you link your web traffic to the conversions stemming from the individual keywords. They can however give you a rough estimate of the kind of keywords your online visitors use to find you.

AdWords Section and Cost Analysis

There isn’t much difference between these two sections.

With the Cost Analysis section, you can measure your sessions, costs, and even paid revenue performance for every paid advertising campaign you run.

You can even connect your Google Analytics account with your Google AdWords for performance reporting or to upload data from your other advertising sources.

For the AdWords section, you’ll be presented with the data of the visitors clicking through your Google AdWords links. You’re also allowed to connect your Google AdWords to this section of the feature.


The social section is designed to give you an in-depth insight of the kind of traffic you’re driving through social networks.

Among the data provided is the summary of your social media conversion and incoming traffic from the various social networks.

This section arrives with seven additional reports that you can strip further for specific data:

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i) Network Referrals

This sub-section will run you through a list of all social networks driving your web traffic. Nothing of the report presented will be about conversion, as much as it’s about the behaviour of the visitors you’re getting.

For instance, you will be shown which network generates the most active visitors and which one among the bunch you have generates the least active ones.

Also shown will be the specific pages the networks are directing traffic to, as well as the amount of time each one of them spends on your site.

This is important as some of the networks driving the most traffic might NOT be generating meaningful interactions leading up to business.

ii) Data Hubs Activity

The data hub report sums up all the info about your interaction with other Google Partner networks. Among them is Delicious, Discus, Google+, Reddit, and Livefyre among others.

 iii) Landing Pages

This one lists all the pages receiving the highest number of visitors from social networks. All that and so much more can be found in the landing page report presented.

You’re allowed to click on specific pages to find out which social networks are driving the most traffic to the specific pages.

iv) Trackbacks

Trackbacks are NOT some new tool. If you’re NOT exactly new to blogging, you might have come across them a few times.

For what’s worth, trackback are the notification you receive from the blogging platform you’re using, particularly Google, informing you that someone might have clicked on one of your posts.

Google Analytics offers something quite similar through their trackbacks report in the Social section.

With the Trackbacks report, you can identify all the popular publications linking back to your web content. In addition to that, they can still be used to identify all the content scrapping sites that might have pulled your content off blog.

Important Tip

Every time you make a new publication, remember to link back to one of your older posts. That way, you can be sure of getting pinged every time someone steals your content to pass it as their own.


This is the sub-section to track all the social networks driving the bulk of your online visitors. The report has it all lined up for you to see and analyse.

v) Plugins

Google Analytics automatically tracks the clicks you’re getting on your Google Analytics account and your Google plus pages as well as the badges you have on your website. All this data will be shown in the plugin report shown.

You’re also allowed to click on the secondary dimension drop-down where you can choose Social Action from the menu items presented to find out which among your pages triggers most action from your site visitors.

To track other social buttons on your Google Analytics accounts, including the Facebook like button, you have the option to copy some custom codes and paste them on your website for a detailed report.

v) Users Flow

Coming last on the social section of the segment is the Users Flow Report. Here, you’ll be shown a detailed report of the path your visitors take after visiting your website. Which site do they frequent the most after landing on your website?

The report can cover more than 10 interactions, depending on the number of pages your visitors disappear to after visiting your site.

vi) Search Engine Optimisation

This ought to be one of the most important sections of this feature. In this section, you’ll be presented with a series of reports featuring all kind of data collected from Google Webmaster Tools. Speaking of which, Google Webmaster is an essential diagnostic tool you can use to assess your site’s health with regards to the Google search engine.

Every time you click on any of the three reports lined up in the search engine optimisation section, including landing pages, Geographical Summary and Queries, you’ll be prompted to set a Webmaster Tools for data sharing.

It’s a Wrap

Google analytics is actually bigger than you know. You have no limit as to what you can use the tool to do. The Acquisition Reports section is just part of how crucial the tool actually proves to be.

Use the tool to get your feet wet around the tool. But for further clarification and explanation of anything mentioned, feel free to make good use of MediaOne’s free SEO consultation service.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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