If you are a Google Analytics user, you know there is a ton of data to absorb. It can be intimidating and overwhelming. There is so much information that you might find yourself doing nothing with it just because you don’t know where to start. The biggest challenge is determining what data is necessary and helpful in making informed decisions.

Like many of you, we want to spend our limited time on sources of traffic that produce the best results. Using dlvr.it as an example, our goal is to understand the top sources of traffic coming from social media. The answer can be found in the referral data in Google Analytics. In the three steps listed below, we’ll show you the quickest route to unlock your data.

Step 1. Pull the referral data

Once you are logged into Google Analytics, the referral data can be accessed by clicking on Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals in the menu on the left of your screen.

Access Google Referral data by clicking on the Acquisition menu item

Step 2. Create a strategy that works best for your business

It is important to understand which key metrics to use to measure your success. They will be different if you are trying to improve your blog vs. sell more widgets. As stated above, we set out to increase traffic to our blog from the best producing social network. If increasing sales is important, rank the Ecommerce Conversion Rate data (found to the right of the Behavior data) as your #1 criteria.

The Referral data found in Google Analytics looks like the example below. If you don’t understand the terms, click the ‘?’ next to each word.

Google Referral Data Overview

Using dlvr.it again as an example for ranking traffic sources, we defined the following criteria as being important for a healthy blog:

  1. Low Bounce Rate
  2. High Average Session Duration
  3. High Pages/Session

Step 3. Identify the strongest traffic source

To reduce time and effort, we decided to start with a traffic source that has clear potential and a strong base to work from. Our goal is to increase the Sessions from a source that is already producing quality visits.

In the sample data set below, you’ll notice a few highlights. I scanned each column and highlighted the best source of traffic in each category (Session, % New Sessions, New Users, etc.).

In the case of ‘% New Sessions’, I highlighted two items where the other columns have just one. The higher number represents new traffic while the lower number represents repeat users. Both are important.

It is also important to note that I ignored any internal traffic sources (dlvr.it – our main website for example).

Google Analytics Referral Performane Data

In this test sample, Facebook is the winner. It has the highest repeat visitor rate, the highest Pages/Session and the highest Avg. Session Duration. In our small data set, it is clear that there is work to be done with the number of sessions coming from Facebook.

Next Steps

Now that we know Facebook is our top source of quality readers, our next step is to create and implement a Facebook strategy to attract more readers. We’ll publish the strategy and the results once our testing is complete.