Stop Giving Away Your Twitter Traffic in Google Analytics!

Are you in the middle of running a twitter campaign? Are you seeing significantly less twitter traffic than you were hoping? Before giving up on your twitter campaigns you should make sure that the data you’re analyzing is accurate!

First let’s check the traffic we are currently recording as twitter traffic, from the GA dashboard:

  • Open the Traffic Sources Report
  • Open the Referring Sites Report
  • Filter the source to include “”

This should be all of my twitter referrals right? Nope! A Majority of twitter referrals will show up as Direct Traffic in Google Analytics!

Well how can this be?

Most twitter users do not use itself; they use applications such as Tweetdeck. When a user clicks on a link in one of these 3rd party apps since they are not in a browser they do not send any referring information. When Google Analytics doesn’t receive any referral information it puts all of these visits (your twitter referrals) into direct traffic.

Below is an advanced segment which shows this in action:

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You can clearly see that a small increase in twitter referrals can actually correspond to a much larger increase in direct traffic!

Fortunately there is a very easy way to fix this! Before you shorten the URL in twitter add the parameter “utm_source=twitter”, being careful to include the “&” or “?” as necessary to mark this addition to the URL as a parameter. Now whenever anyone clicks on a link in a 3rd party app, the Google Analytics will record the visit as coming from twitter instead of as a direct visit.

Want more information than that? You can add another parameter such as “utm_campaign=CAMPAIGNNAME” switching out CAMPAIGNNAME for the name of the twitter campaign you are currently running. Now not only are you correctly tracking your twitter traffic but you are following Avinash’s Rule “Segment or Die!”. This is particularly useful if you run more than one twitter campaign at once and need to be able to tell which of the campaigns is the most effective.

Have you launched any twitter campaigns recently? Did you tag the URLs correctly? Look back through your Google Analytics data and see if you get any spikes in direct traffic the same time you get spikes in twitter referrals. If so you may have under-estimated the value of your twitter campaign!