How Parse.ly tracks referrer data differently from Google Analytics

Page Referrers (Parse.ly) vs Session Referrers (GA)

If you are seeing different referrer data between Parse.ly and Google Analytics, especially in terms of internal traffic referred views, it is likely a result of the distinct ways each tool tracks referrer data.

Google Analytics’ referrer data is based off of the session in which the page was viewed. For example, if a user navigates from Google to an article on your site and then to another article on your site, both articles viewed would have Google as the referrer because the articles were viewed during a single session and the referrer for the session was Google.

Parse.ly’s referrer data is based off of the previous page the user was viewed. For example, if a user navigates from Google to an article on your site and then to another article on your site, the first article would have Google as a referrer while the second article would be classified as an internal referral because the user navigated to the second article from the same site.

URL Referrer (Parse.ly) vs Referrers based on Campaign Parameters (GA)

Another referrer tracking difference between Google Analytics and Parse.ly is the manner in which both tools handle campaign parameters as a referrer source. Google Analytics may use the utm_source parameter of a URL to establish the referrer. For example, if someone clicks on www.yoursite.com/article1/?utm_source=facebook.com on Twitter, Google Analytics will register the referrer as Facebook. Meanwhile, Parse.ly will register the referrer as Twitter because the user clicked to the article on Twitter.

One reason Parse.ly doesn’t reconcile campaign parameters with the referral source is because it is insecure. Anyone can link to a url with specific campaign parameters even if the site doesn’t use campaign parameters. As a result, a third party could manipulate your site’s referrer data.

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