If you have a 3rd party payment gateway or other service providers where users are redirected to in the middle of your conversion funnel, you might see unwanted referrals taking credit for conversions on your website. To make sure that your reports do not include “fake” referrals you need to add those domains to an exclusion list. Let’s take a look at how we can exclude unwanted referrals in GA4.
How to identify if you have a referral problem
Open default traffic acquisition report under Acquisition > Traffic acquisition
Then in the channel report click on a plus sign to add an additional dimension.
Under Session Acquisition select Session source/medium
You should see a report listing all the traffic sources where sessions started from – source/medium combinations.
Red flags that you should search for
- Your own domain or sub-domain is reported as a referral.
- Payment systems reported as a referrals (E.g. paypal.com / adyen.com / etc.)
- Other 3rd party systems from your technology stack reported as referrals
In the example above we have a referral from a single sign-on from sso.teachable.com, which is just redirecting users to a correct page after logging in. We also have a few small referrals from our own domain, so those would be our first picks to remove from reports (assigning the traffic to the previously known channels in the interaction chain).
Another approach you could do is to filter the report by Referrals and then order by the amount of conversion each one has.
That will give you a good overview of what referrals are currently reported so you can spot the ones that should not be considered as a separate channel in GA4.
How to exclude referrals in GA4
After you have identified a list of referrals that you want to exclude open the Admin section from the bottom left menu.
Select “Data Streams” under the property column.
Select your web property.
Scroll down and select “Manage Tagging Settings”
And then click “List unwanted referrals”
Here you can list all the referrals that you want to exclude as traffic sources from your reports.
Enter all the domains that you want to exclude from the referral list. Any new traffic will not be attributed to specified channels but towards the last known channel before referral.
As per information from Google, self-referrals are removed automatically if referring website matched the current page domain. In reality, it can often appear in your reports for various reasons, so it’s always best to exclude that domain as well.
That’s basically it, I hope you found it useful.