The phrase “link building” often means what it says; to build links to a website – but it also involves utilising any existing assets. As well as developing new links to a website it can be highly beneficial to tailor the existing ones to be better suited for the website. The method of tailoring links varies as it can involve asking for the link to be pointed at a different page, or maybe for the anchor text to be more relevant – but essentially it is all done towards the same goal; to improve traffic and search presence.

If you have been tasked with the link building for a website, you don’t necessarily have to look far from home to improve things. Google Analytics has its many uses, and with a little help it can get even better. To improve the value of existing links with Analytics, here are is a very useful custom filter.

Discovering the Full Referral URL

This feature should be available by default in Analytics, but even after all this time it isn’t. When looking at the referring traffic on a website you are only provided with the domain view as opposed to the specific page in which the referral came from. To see the full referral URL in Google Analytics an advanced custom filter is needed – and here’s how: (credit to Sebastien Page for posting this).

1. Log in to Analytics and click ‘Edit’ on the profile
2. Scroll down to the filters and chose ‘Add Filter’
3. Name the filter (eg ‘Full Referral URL’) then use the following options:

Filter Type: Custom Filter


Field A -> Extract A:         Referral               (.*)

Field B -> Extract B:         blank

Output To -> Constructor:            User Defined     $A1

Field A Required               Yes

Field B Required               No

Override Output Field    Yes

Case Sensitive   No

Display Full Referral URLs in Google Analytics

4. Save the changes

The custom filter won’t work retroactively, but after it has been applied you will be able to view the full referral by going to the ‘Visitors’ option in the navigation menu of the profile, and selecting ‘User Defined’.

Improving the Value of Links

Once you are able to see the full referring URL you have the ability to explore those links in more detail and improve the value (in some cases). Here are some instances in which you may wish to change how a link is being directed to a website:

  • The link is pointing to a non-primary URL (for example the non-www copy of the site)
  • The anchor text is irrelevant (or untargeted)
  • The link would be better suited to another page on the website
  • The link has the ‘nofollow’ attribute applied to it
  • The link is positioned around irrelevant content, such as headings that say “Sponsored Links”

Contacting a website owner to request a change to a link isn’t a difficult task, and you will find that most of the time they are willing to do so. It’s a quick and easy job for them, and if you could also offer them a bit of free link advice for themselves to sweeten the deal!

  • I’m confused. I see the exact referral URLs in my Google Analytics and always have.

    Just click to Traffic Sources > Referring Sites > Then click on each referring domain.

    All the individual URLs that brought you links are now there.

    Or am I misunderstanding what info you’re looking for?

  • Hi Jill,

    I should have perhaps provided a little more clarity when wording the article. Yes, you can see the exact URL when clicking through to the specific referring domain, but by default you cannot see a full overview of the full URLs (as you can with referring domains) in a list.

    Also, for websites where search is enabled, the full URL doesn’t show properly in the referring sites drill down. For example, a URL may look like this in the referring sites drill down:

    But with the custom filter, it will provide the specific search (URL) that was performed, eg:

    This also applies for forums, and specific forum topics where dynamic URLs might be being used.

    Hope that helps clear things up



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  • Meghan Wherrity


    I have been using this for months and it suddenly stopped working on April 16th. We didn’t make any changes.

    Is it still working for you?


  • Hey Meghan,

    I can confirm it’s still working from our end, so it’s strange that you’re having issues with it!

    Is it just one account it has stopped working on for you, or multiple ones?



  • Meghan Wherrity

    Hi Kieron,

    Thanks for your response!

    It is one GA account that has multiple profiles. The filter stopped working for all of the profiles.

    Based on GA help forum chatter, we think it might be because Google got rid of the user defined field and now we have to use custom variables, but we are not sure.


  • We haven’t had any issues with it on any profiles so it’s hard to help I’m afraid.

    Have you perhaps tried deleting the filter and re-applying it?

    Good luck with it.


  • Meghan Wherrity

    Thanks, Kieron.

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  • Cuthbart

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