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What is it about? ????

This article is essential reading for website owners operating across multiple domains, such as a primary customer website and a separate shopping-cart domain. It explores the nuances of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and its approach to managing referral traffic. In the digital world, referrals are the segments of traffic that arrive at your site from an external source, like a third-party domain.

Main Points

Referral Traffic

GA4 has the capability to automatically identify the source of traffic just before it reaches your website. This data is then presented as referral-traffic sources in your analytics reports. Specifically, for session-based metrics, look at the acquisition traffic source report; for user-based metrics, focus on the user acquisition report. Remember, the user is tagged with their first source.

Filtering Referrals

GA4 enables you to establish conditions to exclude certain domains whose traffic you do not wish to classify as referrals. When these conditions are met, GA4 appends the ignore_referrer=true parameter to the event.

Common Uses

There are situations where you may prefer not to label traffic as referrals. These include interactions with third-party payment processors like PayPal, Stripe, or SIBS, as well as website-managed activities such as password recovery.

Example: Retail E-commerce a user journey

Consider a user who lands on a product page, adds an item to the cart, and then proceeds to checkout. The user is then directed to a payment gateway domain (e.g., PayPal, Stripe, SIBS) to complete the transaction. If these domains are not listed in Google Analytics’ unwanted referrals, they will be counted as referrers for a conversion, skewing the actual source of the session traffic. This could lead to misguided user acquisition strategies and incorrect attribution.


GA4 is configured not to label traffic as a referral if it originates from your own domains or is part of a cross-domain measurement setup. We will write about this topic in near future.


To manage unwanted referrals, you’ll need Editor role access. Additionally, you can set up to 50 unwanted referrals per data stream, or per website if you choose to configure one for each data stream.

Manual Control

For more nuanced control, you can manually set the ignore_referrer=true parameter for specific events or pages. This is an advanced feature that should be used cautiously.

Pros and Cons


Data Accuracy: Excluding irrelevant referrals improves the accuracy of your traffic source data, providing a clearer picture from landing page to transaction completion.

Focused Analysis: This feature allows you to concentrate on significant referral sources, aiding in more effective decision-making.

Customization: GA4 offers the flexibility to manually adjust the ignore_referrer parameter for specific events.


Complexity: A comprehensive understanding of GA4 is required, and you may need Editor role access.

Risk of Data Loss: Incorrectly configuring the ignore_referrer parameter could result in the loss of valuable traffic source data.


Understanding and effectively managing referral traffic is vital for accurate data analysis and informed decision-making. The ability to filter out unwanted referrals in GA4 is a powerful tool but should be used carefully to avoid data loss.

By grasping these aspects of GA4, marketers and decision-makers can make more informed choices that align with their business objectives.

For further information, refer to the Google Analytics Support Page.

For Consulting and tailored training needs, feel free to contact us and book free consultation.


This guide aims to provide a understanding of referral traffic and implications about wrong /absent configuration in GA4, helping marketers and decision-makers make data-driven decisions with data quality.

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