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Top Sources

Your "Top Sources" report shows which referral sources are driving traffic to your website. Click on the "Details" button to get extra insights such as the visit duration and bounce rate for the individual referral source. Click on any referral source to filter the dashboard by it.

The Top Sources report also includes all the traffic tagged with UTM tags such as utm_source, utm_medium and utm_campaign. You can use UTM tags to understand which marketing and promotional activities are driving traffic that converts best.

Using the "Filter" button on the top of your dashboard, you can filter the stats by multiple sources at the same time which allows you to for instance separate organic search traffic from other traffic. It's also possible to filter out traffic from a specific referral source.

Top Referrers - multiple filters

Note that all referral sources are counted only when they start a new session on your site. This is why you don't see all your own referral sources if you click to test several different UTM tagged links at the same time. Only the first one would be included in the "Top Sources" report. You would need to start a new session by for instance waiting more than 30 minutes or using a different device, browser or IP address.

The fact that the referral sources are counted only when they start a new session on your site prevents external domains such as a payment gateway that the user is being taken through to show up in the referrers list. No need for you to manually exclude referrers.

There are two distinct ways that Plausible Analytics collects the referrer source for a visitor:

1. Automatic by the referer header

The referer header (the HTTP header is misspelled with one r for historical reasons) is the default and automated way of tracking referrer sources of web traffic. The referer header works well for the majority of cases but there are some limitations and fall-backs with using it for various historical and technical reasons.

Note that all the major browsers have stopped sending the detailed info on referral sources. Chrome, Safari and Firefox now only send the full domain name of the referrer and not the actual URL. This affects all analytics services including Plausible. It means that if sends you visitors, you will see in your referral sources list but won’t be able to see the exact post URL itself.

"Direct / None" traffic without a referrer source

Not every request from a browser will have the referrer specified, and the referer header isn't always accurate.

This is why you see the "Direct / None" referrer source in the "Top Sources" report. This covers all the traffic where the referrer isn't passed. These could be clicks from email, clicks from documents, clicks from messengers and other mobile apps, bookmarks, people typing in the URL directly into the browser and more. You may also know it as "dark traffic".

By default, we attempt to uncover traffic originating from Android apps which is traditionally categorized as direct traffic in web analytics. The volume of "android-app" entries in your "Top Sources" report will vary based on your site and audience. For sites with significant mobile traffic, this recovers 10% or more previously unattributed traffic from apps like Gmail, Slack and Telegram.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of other problems with the header:

  • Whenever someone is moving from http to https or vice versa, the referer header is dropped.

  • Facebook referer only includes the fact that the visitor came from Facebook. Facebook never sends the post or comment ID where someone clicked.

  • Google does not include the search keywords in the referrer, so you can see that the visitor is coming from Google search, but you can't see which keyword phrase they used to find you. To fix this, you can integrate your account with Google Search Console so the keyword phrases people discover your site with show in your Plausible Analytics dashboard. After integrating with Search Console, you can click on "Google" to view these.

To minimize the amount of traffic that falls within the "Direct / None" category, you can add special query parameters such as UTM tags to your links. ref, source, utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign, utm_content and utm_term query parameters are all valid and supported by Plausible Analytics.

See "Manual link tagging" section of the documentation for the full instructions.