Cool Custom Report – “True Referrers Of Interest”

A handy custom report on referrers that helps you more easily notice miscellaneous sites and blogs that link to your site.

A quick look at this custom report shows me whether somebody, somewhere, has suddenly linked to my site.  This question came up on the Webtrends Forum  this week and I thought it would make a good post.  It is a report that I have found to be very valuable.

Basically, it’s a report that shows referring sites (or, if you wish, domains or even referring pages) …  but leaves out the overwhelming fog of search engines, paid search hits, sites displaying your ads, email traffic, and more.  I just want to see bloggers or news articles or other meaty, and probably transient, mentions.

Here’s how to make the report.

As with all Webtrends custom reports, there are three components – the row labels (a.k.a. the “Dimension”), the column headings (a.k.a. “Measures”), and the filters (usually, stuff you don’t want to be in the rows).

The Dimension

I like to have two versions of this report.  One uses the dimension “Referring Sites” (which is more useful than “Referring Domains”).  But I always do one with “Referring URL”.  Why?  Because then I usually can click on the URL and instantly see the page that had the link that produced the traffic.

(Note:  some referring URLs will have the important page-specific address in the query parameters, i.e. after the “?”.  Webtrends strips the parameters out by default in the Referring URLs report.  If you want your Referring URLs report to display those parameters when they occur, you need to see this post about referring page parameters.  )

The Measures

I like to use both visits and page views, plus a custom calculated measure that is the ratio of the two (pages per average visit).  That way, I can see the amount of traffic and also have an idea of the length of those visits.

The Filters

Back to the purpose of this report.  What I’m after, overall, is look at the “leftover” referring pages – what’s left after removing search engines, paid search hits, sites where somebody clicked on one of your ads, and email traffic.  Also, maybe, the sites of my client’s dealers and distributors.  Whatever.

There are two kinds of filters used here:  those based on the referrer, and those based on the entry page URL.  You’ll probably need both.

They are all VISIT filters, not hit filters (you choose the filter type on the first screen of the filter configuration).  And they are all applied to the report as EXCLUDES, of course.

You can make a lot of individual filters or, if you wish, one or more big filters that have many individual components under the “Filter must match one or more criteria” button.  It doesn’t matter which way you do it.  But stay away from the “Filter must match ALL criteria” button.

Filters Based on the Referrer

  • Filtering out search engines:  In the “Filter On” field, choose “Search Engine”.  (This will rely on Webtrends’ collection of search engine identifiers, which is pretty good, and it will exclude a lot of organic search as well as most (but probably not all) of your paid search.)
  • Filtering out search engines that Webtrends may have missed:  Filter on “Referring Domain” or “Referring Site” then enter a list of the [search engine related] domains you’ve seen in your reports that you want kept out of this report.  But before going to a lot of trouble with this one, see the next bullet below.
  • Filtering out miscellaneous search subdomains on many non-search sites:  Filter on “Referring Site” (not Referring Domain) then enter strings like “search”.  This will get rid of search.ask.com, search.sweetim.com, www.delta-search.com and many others.  Most of them put “search” into their site name, making them easy to identify.
  • Filtering out other domains that you don’t care about:  Same as the above, but you’ll be entering whatever domains you’ve seen in your reports that you don’t want.  As an example, one of my clients filters out their global affiliates, i.e. MySite.mx or espanol.mysite.com.  Another example is their dealers and distributors:  DealerSiteWhatever.com.  Another possibility is Google Maps, which is maps.google.com.
  • Filtering out visits from social media:  “Referring Site” or “Referring Domain” with the strings Twitter.com or Facebook.com, and so forth.
  • Filtering out most (not all) traffic from links in emails:  Filter on “Referring Site” (not Referring Domain) then enter strings like “mail.” and others that indicate web-based mail servers, such as Yahoo Mail which comes from many servers with site names like “usmg6.mail.yahoo.com”.  You’ll have to do a little research to optimize this, where “research” means looking at the report for ones to cull then adding them to your filter definitions.  (Note that people using email clients such as MS Outlook will not be seen by this filter … but, on the other hand, Outlook traffic has a blank referrer anyway, so it’s not a problem in the first place.)
Filters Based on the Entry Page URL

Big note:  These are available to you only if you put marker parameters in the landing page of your marketing traffic.  What, you don’t?  You should be.

  • For example, if your email blasts contain the parameter “WT.mc_id=email”, you can remove all email traffic from this report with one filter based on “Entry Page” where the Page is “*” (NOT regular expression match) and the URL parameter is “WT.mc_id” equal to “email” (regular expression match would probably be best).
  • It’s the same for banner traffic, which you might have marked with “WT.mc_id=Bannerxxxxxx.
  • Or your affiliate traffic, which you might have marked with “Affiliate=nameofaffiliate”.
  • Or your paid search traffic, which might be marked with “WT.srch=1” or “gclid=<something>” or “WT.mc_id=PPC”.
  • Filtering on “WT.mc_id” values of “*” might do the trick for all your marketing channels – email, banners, paid search, affiliates – if that’s how you have it set up.
Get the idea?  Figure out how your marketing can be identified in the landing page URL, and make filters accordingly.
I look at this report every couple of days.
  • I’m constantly adding to the exclusion filters as junk creeps into the report.   It takes a couple minutes a week.
  • Most importantly, I get to see mentions almost immediately and maybe can reply to them or thank the person for the mention in a timely way.