How to track referrals from Flipboard in GA4 and what do good referral metrics look like?

Matt Yau

There are a wide range of news aggregators out there all trying to help publishers reach more readers. But it’s important to be aware of the ways in which they do this. Platforms like Apple News keep readers on the app by displaying content natively therefore keeping traffic within their own ecosystem. However, many others like Flipboard drive traffic directly to the publisher, otherwise known as referral traffic.

In this article, we’re going to talk about how you track referral traffic from Flipboard in Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

Why is referral traffic important for publishers?

Referral traffic is a highly valuable source of readers in digital publishing. Referrals bring traffic from external sources such as social media and news aggregators like Flipboard, Google News, Upday and many others. 

The key advantage is that it allows publishers to make use of all the usual conversion and monetisation tools that already live on their website. All those newsletter signup CTAs, the subscription CTAs, the internal click throughs, and many other conversion initiatives don’t need to be transposed to an off-site platform. 

Therefore, one of the most important metrics to track when using Flipboard is referrals. So we’ll be going over how to track referrals, and how to gauge whether the numbers look good or not.

How to track referrals in Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

There are a range of web analytics tools out there but we’re going to focus on the most common, GA4. Referral traffic is a form of traffic acquisition, so that’s where we’ll want to navigate to in Google Analytics.

Where to find referral traffic in GA4:

Reports > Life Cycle > Acquisition > Traffic Acquisition

Where to find referral traffic in GA4
Referral traffic is found in the traffic acquisition section in GA4.

In this section of GA4, you’ll find all your traffic acquisition data. But as you’re only interested in referral traffic, you need to filter the data. 

How to filter referral traffic to show Flipboard referrals only

  1. In the traffic acquisition section, type “referral” into the search bar just above the data table. 
  2. Add a secondary dimension so that you can see specifically where traffic has come from. Use “session source/medium” as the secondary dimension to do this. 
  3. Find Flipboard in the data table.
Referral traffic data table in GA4
GA4 has been equipped with a new set of metrics that empowers you to better gauge the quality of traffic.

What metrics can you use to analyse the performance of referral traffic?

The metrics you can see here revolve around overall traffic (users and sessions) and engagement (engagement time and engaged sessions). Some of these are new metrics for GA4 that were trickier to find in Google Analytics UA. So you may not have been benchmarking these metrics until recently. 

But now that you can, you’ll be able to better gauge the quality of your traffic. So let’s go through what they all mean.

Engaged sessions are new to GA4. Sessions are recorded as engaged when they last longer than 10 seconds, have a conversion event, or have at least 2 pageviews. We think this is a great addition to GA4 as it allows you to qualify your traffic. After all, not all traffic is equal.

Average engagement time per session in GA4 has replaced average session duration in UA. The new metric is stricter and is another way to help you better gauge the quality of user sessions. Session time counts as engaged when users have your web page as the focus of their screen time.

Engaged sessions per user and events per user allow you to work out how much of your total traffic is qualified traffic. These metrics previously had to be set up manually in dashboards so GA4 now gives you a better snapshot of your traffic.

What do good referral traffic numbers look like?

It’s not possible to give a straight answer on whether your traffic numbers look good or not because it’ll be different for every publisher and can even differ from content to content. The best way to benchmark good traffic and engagement metrics from Flipboard is to compare it to performance metrics from traffic you get directly or organically on your publication.

So if you’re getting 0.7 engaged sessions per user, you can use that as a target for engaged sessions from Flipboard. In reality, I would expect it to be a little lower as direct traffic represents some of your most loyal readers but it’s a good target to aim for.

If you must compare to other publishers, Time Inc. UK found that Flipboard was making up 1-2% of total traffic, Another Magazine was getting 6-7% of total traffic from Flipboard and City A.M. was getting around 10% of total traffic referred from Flipboard.

As always with data though, you should also be aware of sample size. Traffic from direct and organic sources will likely have the largest sample size and is therefore more reliable, whereas small sample sizes are vulnerable to big swings in performance.

Ultimately though, now that GA4 has these additional metrics, it’s much easier to compare the performance of traffic from referrals against all your other traffic sources without having to calculate percentages to make a fair comparison.

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