Are your Google Ads not performing well in analytics? Check your referral traffic

Are your Google Ads not performing well in analytics Check your referral traffic (1)

Google Ads is one of the most popular, and important marketing channels businesses have. It can achieve some incredible results for businesses and provide a huge return on investment. However, to ensure it does achieve the best results you need good data to monitor and adjust your ads accordingly. But what if the data you are receiving is inaccurate?

Have you ever wondered, when looking at Google Analytics, why your paid search conversions aren’t matching what you are seeing in Google Ads manager?  Yet why does your referral traffic and conversions seem to be chugging along so well? This is what we will address here.  

What is referral traffic?

Referral traffic is all about the traffic your website receives from other websites. If they click a link from a website, which takes them straight to yours, that is considered referral traffic. This type of traffic is important to track, especially if you are doing blogger outreach campaigns, or have referral campaigns with other businesses like Oneflare or AfterPay. However, sometimes this metric can get in the way of your other marketing channels.

How does it effect my Google Ads results?

Think about your customer journey, picture where your customer goes along this journey, and what links they will click. Here you will see how Google Ads conversions can be mixed up with referral conversions. Let’s run through a basic example for an eCommerce business.

You are running Google Ads, your customer clicks on one of your Ads and you get charged for it. They arrive at your epic landing page and check out your products. Soon enough their cart is filled with your products, so they click “buy.” From there they are taken through the shipping forms, to the payment section. Now they are presented with payment options. AfterPay, PayPal, Stripe, are all available. So, they click on AfterPay. Because of this, they are redirected to the AfterPay website to pay for the goods, then they are redirected straight back to your website to complete the purchase.

Did you see what happened there? Your customers were redirected to an external website to pay, then were brought back to your website. Google analytics sees this as the customer leaving your site, then clicking back to your site through an external website to complete the conversion. In its mind, this is a referral, so it attributes the sale to referrals, not Ads, even if they originally came from Ads.

You can see an example here of an Organic Search conversion being attributed to referrals here

Why is this important?

If you are using analytics to measure your campaign performance this is extremely important. Google is displaying Ads results as referral results, skewing your data. You may have been looking at your Analytics and seeing how many conversions you are getting from your listing on AfterPay. It’s a big number and looks incredible, meanwhile, your Ads results look average in comparison. Clearly, AfterPay referrals get way better results.

The skewed results give you the wrong impression about how your marketing campaigns are performing. This could lead you to make changes that are detrimental to your campaigns and have no idea why. For example, you could reduce your Ads campaign budget, then increase your referral marketing, but end up with worse results overall.

How do I fix this?

Fortunately, the fix for this issue is easy to implement. All you need to do is add any false referrals to an exclusions list. Here is how you do that:

  1. Go to the “Admin” button on the left-hand side
  2. Click “Tracking Info” in the middle column
  3. A drop down will appear, click “Referral Exclusion List”
  4. Click “Add Referral Exclusion”
  5. Copy and paste the domains which are giving you false referrals

From then on it won’t attribute the clicks from this website as referral traffic if they first came from Ads, organic, socials, or directly.


Ensuring your Google Analytics is reporting data accurately is vital. With good data, you can make the right decisions surrounding your marketing campaigns which will provide your business with better results.

If you would like help with Google Analytics and Google Ads, reach out to Link Pixel.

How to set up a Facebook business page the right way

How to set up a Facebook business page the right way


7 tips to writing great web copy

Why you should be responding to your reviews

Why you should be responding to your reviews

direct .au domain names are now available

Important: direct .au domain names are now available

Boost your conversions with this free eBook.

Link Pixel Ebook

Posted in
Matt Power

Matt Power

Matt is here to transform your marketing strategy with excellent content designed to grab eyeballs. With his background in Journalism, Matt writes kick-ass blogs, email marketing, and website copy. In his spare time, Matt is a musician, tech enthusiast, and avid lego collector.