KnowledgeBase - What is a referring URL or referrer?

What is a referring URL or referrer?

« Go Back
Webtrends Legacy Products
Webtrends Enterprise 7.x
Webtrends Professional 7.x
Webtrends Small Business 7.x
Webtrends Analysis Suite 7.x
Webtrends Log Analyzer Advanced 8.x
Webtrends Log Analyzer 8.x
Webtrends Log Analyzer 7.x
Webtrends Reporting Center 6.x
Webtrends Reporting Center 5.x
Webtrends Reporting Service 6.x

Last modified: 1/1/2011

Referring URLs are those URLs from which a unique user arrives at at a web site. To meet the definition of a referring URL:
  • The URL must be one from which a user first arrived at the site, leading to the start of a new visitor session (or visit).
  • The URL must contain a hypertext link to the site (as opposed to links generated by JavaScript).
  • The visitor must have clicked on that hypertext link on the referring site to arrive at the destination site.
Webtrends looks for a unique combination of elements and events as it seeks out, identifies and records referring URLs. The following elements indicate what they are and how they relate to one another:
  • A unique user is a visitor who can be identified by IP address or cookie and can therefore be distinguished from other visitors in the same log file as different or unique. It is the IP address or cookie (not people themselves) that Webtrends uses to make that distinction.
  • Unique users represent the total number who visit a site during the reporting period.
  • A visitor session (or visit) is the range of all activity to a site by a single unique visitor. By default, a visitor session ends after 30 minutes of inactivity. A new visitor session begins whenever Webtrends identifies a new or returning IP address or cookie.
  • A referring URL is the URL given credit as that from which users arrived at the site and began a new visitor session.
Webtrends uses the following criteria in the process of identifying referring URLs:
  • Webtrends sessionizes the data in the log file and arranges sessions in an order that allows the program to evaluate visitor data more easily.
  • During analysis, Webtrends drills down through the lines in the sessionized log file, one event at a time, and identifies the event that began each visitor session.
  • If the event contains referral information, the URL posted in the referral field gets credit as the referring URL.
  • If the event does not contain referral information, Webtrends gives credit to no referrer.
  • Webtrends will count one referring URL (or no referrer) per visitor session.
At times, pages from the web site show up as the referrer. There are two possible explanations for this behavior:
1. A new visitor session starts while a visitor is on the site.
A visitor browses to the site and for some reason, stops browsing but leaves the browser open. The visitor returns 40 minutes later and continues browsing the site. The following details apply in this situation:
  • The visitor will have the same IP addresses (or cookie) but this counts as a new and separate visitor session.
  • When the visitor makes the first request from the web server for content in this new session, the web server attributes the IP address to a new visitor and regards the visitor as a unique user, beginning a new visitor session.
  • The URL from which the visitor arrived gets credit as the referring URL (if it meets the conditions at the top of this article).
2. A visitor's IP Address changes while visiting the web site.
Using the above example, if the visitor's IP address is dynamically-assigned and changes while visiting the web site a new visitor session will begin upon the next request to the web server, with the previous visit terminating after 30 minutes of inactivity.
The URL from which the visitor came (a URL on the web site) gets credit as the referring URL (if it meets the conditions at the top of this article).

On some occasions, the referrer field may be empty. This may be caused by the following:
  • The visitor came to the web site by way of a bookmark.
  • The visitor typed the URL into the address field of the browser.
  • The visitor configured the web site as the default start page.
  • The visitor came to the web site by clicking a hypertext link sent in an e-mail.
  • The event that started the visitor session was a hit to something other than a page, such as an image.
  • The visitor came to the web site by way of a java-script-based redirect. For example, if one site is redirecting to another site by using a pop-up window (using any number of java script commands), the hit on the web server will record no referral information.
More Information
Was this article helpful?

Please tell us how we can make this article more useful.

Characters Remaining: 255