How to Use Google Analytics to Track Facebook Referrals

How to Use Google Analytics to Track Traffic from Facebook

[The following is a guest post by Andrew Foxwell.]

Do you use Google Analytics?

If you do, chances are you know how to use it on the surface but might not know some of the more in-depth tactics that would allow you to gain tons of insights about how your Facebook page and website interact with one another.

In this article, I’ll show you how to dive into your Google Analytics account and see…

  1. How people are finding you,
  2. What they are looking for,
  3. How to set up proper tracking on Google; and
  4. How to set up Facebook to track goals (e.g. sales).

Ready? Let’s go…

Traffic Sources – Referrals

When you log in to Google Analytics, you see the date on the upper right hand corner. Go ahead and set that to the date range you care about.

Google Analytics Date Range

Then click on Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals.

This gives you insights into the sites that send people to your website the most often. Go to the search bar and type in “facebook” and see what comes up.

Google Analytics Facebook Referrals

In the example above, you can see the following:

  • In the period of time I chose, I had 6,329 visits from Facebook and 5,989 from Facebook’s mobile site.
  • These visitors went to 5.41 pages on average from desktop and almost 4 pages on the site from mobile.
  • They spent over two minutes on the website (this is quite good and shows engaging content).
  • Over 47% of the desktop users were brand-new; 58% of the mobile users were new.
  • The bounce rates of 24% and 32% means that when these users arrived on the first page, they “bounced” or left the site.

Overall, it gives you some great top-level insights into your visitors from Facebook.

Social – Network Referrals

You can also compare the stats we just went over above to other social networks and see which ones are bringing you the most useful traffic.

Just click on Social > Network Referrals.

Google Analytics Social Referrals

Google Analytics Social Referrals

Specifically, check out how great the time on site is for Facebook and how many pages per visit they have. Facebook is the clear winner on amount of visits, and more importantly, the time visitors spend on the site (well, WordPress actually wins that one, but five visits is pretty insignificant).

UTM Parameters

Now let’s get a bit more intense.

If you’re running advertising campaigns to sell something to customers via Facebook, you’re likely using the Facebook conversion pixel, which Jon has spoken about a lot. If you’re not, then get to it!

Outside of the Facebook Pixel, the second most important thing to close the tracking gap is ensuring that you’ve got your ads tagged with the proper UTM parameters from Google. UTM parameters are simply tags that you add to a URL. When someone clicks on a URL with UTM parameters, those tags are sent back to your Google Analytics for tracking.

So, instead of just seeing what traffic came to your site, you can separate between source and break it down by medium.

So, you see something like this:

Google Analytics Traffic Source Medium UTM Parameters

Notice all the different structures in there? That’s because we’ve used the Google UTM builder, which is found HERE.

Once you’ve got your tracking in place, then you can get to setting up goals on Google Analytics. This allows you to do things such as tracking the number of transactions from a certain ad and how much revenue it’s brought you. If you haven’t done that just yet, check out this blog post to get started.

In the next post, I’ll discuss how to see what your Facebook ads are doing for your full conversion path to purchase!

Your Turn

Are you using Google Analytics to track your effectiveness on Facebook? Let me know what creative strategies you’re using in the comments below!

  • Olivia George

    I love that you did a blog post about this! This is one of my favorite ad strategies. There’s so much more for us to find out about our ad and content performance other than just the click. Our agency likes to tag up all links that send traffic off site, including Page Post ads containing links. We’ve actually found that Facebook often inaccurately reports the number of link clicks on an ad, and it was nice to find a simple way to get around that issue. Also, when we’re using Facebook apps that contain links that send traffic out of Facebook, we tag up those buttons to. It was awesome to see how much traffic we sent off site with a FB app.

  • Ali

    Thanks this was a great post. Learn a lot of techniques through your blog. Keep up the good work.

  • Phyllis Khare

    Yes. I have done parts of this process. Social was converting at a higher percentage than email in one very important campaign. We always have 90% coming from FB. Real Time view is addicting to watch.

    • Jon Loomer

      I have real-time view open right now!

  • Terry D. Whalen

    Great how-to, Andrew. One thing to note is that when using page post photo ads Google Analytics tracking can sometimes be lost. When a user first clicks on the image in a page post photo ad, and then the user clicks to the external website while they have the photo and comments area still open, tracking parameters can be lost. That’s why it’s always good to track both ways – using the Facebook pixel and also Google Analytics (including FB referral data, not just campaign data). Using both, you’re more likely to get closer to the ‘truth.’ One way around this problem is to use a URL shortener like Bitly, in which case no tracking seems to be lost. (However, we have found that using a Bitly link can lead to lower link-CTR.)

    Now that page post link ad units have been updated with larger photos, we’re not relying on page post photo ads as much, so losing GA parameters is less of an issue.

    Jon / Andrew please feel free to weigh in here… :)

  • Hisocial

    Great article Andrew! I see a great value in tracking the traffic source and referrals, especially when it comes to social media referrals. We use this feature regularly as it helps us to learn a lot about our visitors and how they behave after clicking our links.

  • Rich Tucker

    What is the difference between traffic and set) — One of my sites is getting nice conversions from our traffic compare to our other Facebook traffic – so trying to figure out exactly how that traffic is getting to the site so we can get more of it. We do use UTM tracking for most links we share on Facebook. Thank you!

  • Nick Beckingham
  • Dennis Yu

    Jon, what do you do about all the Facebook traffic that shows up as direct/none? Certainly, things have changed in the last month.

  • Jitendra Purohit

    Great Post. For me the most annoying thing is setting up analytics for eCommerce website. I do not know what I do wrong, but I have faced a lot of issues. Could you provide a solid article where the whole setup is written in a very simple manner?

  • Ngo Van Hieu

    Has refferal in analytics count visit from facebook ads?
    If not yet add utm checking?

  • CSM Datasiel

    Hi there,
    in my google analytics account I am seeing “ / referral” and “Facebook / social” as different sources under All Traffic in the Sources tab.
    May you say to me what is the difference between the two? I tried Googling elsewhere and on this forum but found nothing.

    Thank you

  • Sandeep Reddy Santhosham

    great article loved it. i will start exploring on this now.. thank you andrew and joom lomer

  • Guy R Cook

    Andrew, the screenshots are not at all what my Google Analytics look
    like, would be good information to have but can’t get it figured out
    with these old instructions. Can you email when it’s made new for 2014?

  • Erica Metzger

    I’m wondering if the UTMs are causing issue with click through and with tracking? My ads are not tracking any conversions, but they are (thankfully) passing the utm variables so I can track if it came from an AD or not in GA/Hubspot. I’m wondering if I take out the utm string if Facebook will track the conversions too?

    Another problem, on mobile (android) we’re experiencing a “something went wrong” from the ad click to the website. This does not happen no desktop – I’m thinking its detracting people from “following link”. Is this a security setting affected by the ad somehow? Did not experience this with a standard Boosted post.

  • Md Jubayer

    yes got it

  • RedFlag News

    Is there a way to know what specific page on Facebook is driving traffic to your website?

    • Nation Siege

      i would like to knopw as well

      it only shows (for mobile) but that i can already know on google analytics

  • technogupshup

    Obvious this is helpful information for analysis. But we can’t exactly know from which profile or group you are getting your session. But ultimately helpful information.

  • Ravi Jayagopal

    John, awesome info. I listen regularly to your pubcast as well (Cheers! :-) I have a stupid question: Facebook conversion tracking appears to be only for clicks on ads. What if I just posted a link to my site on facebook, and someone clicked on it and arrived at my web site? Is there a “general traffic” (not any type of paid ad) pixel tracking that Facebook allows? And does a “Boost Post” trigger these pixels as that would be considered an “ad” I guess?

  • Freek Keesen

    What is the difference in the data that you get from either Facebook’s tracking pixel compared to GA tracking Fb? Both ways show you how ads are convertig individually, right?

  • Alan Brymer

    How would someone actually implement this? When I enter a tracking URL as the destination for a Clicks to Website campaign, I am told, “You’ve entered a destination that can’t be promoted. Please choose a different destination.”

  • Khushi

    Hi, the information is amazing. Quick question- is there a way to find a specific top referral- a name? Thanks! :-)

  • cesar9dit

    Great post! It was really helpful! Greetings from Guatemala Central America.

  • Verity Kennard

    Great post! Digestible insights into how and why we use URL tracking to monitor ROI and drill into what is working and what is not. We’ve blogged about a similar topic here and would love to hear your thoughts. Looking forward to reading your next post.


  • Craig Inaba

    Andrew, just curious if you think google analytics is accurate at tracking traffic from facebook. This year to date, I paid for 27,965 clicks from facebook ads, but my google analytics is only showing 13,436 new users from facebook, and the referred traffic from facebook should also include my organic traffic from free social media promotion. That’s a HUGE discrepancy. I just got off with facebook support and they say that google analytics is not accurate and that they have no proposal how how to use 3rd party tracking to verify the accuracy of their traffic reports. how convenient for them. Would love to hear your opinion on this and see you do your own investigation on facebook ads and whether or not there is something fishy going on. Thx.