Let's say I have tracking set up on my website to capture traffic sources in GA.

If someone emails my site to a friend and they click on it, is this counted as an email source?

I know an email campaign delivered via a CMS would account for most email traffic, but how does this work when someone forwards an email with a link to your site?


If someone emails a link to a friend - the raw url like https://www.stitchfix.com/ - and the link is clicked, Google Analytics is unable to track the source.

Another twist is when you receive a marketing email containing a link like https://www.stitchfix.com/?ref=email. If this link is copied and shared with a friend over Slack or Skype, the tracking mechanism would record the friend's click as not coming from a chat application but coming from email due to the appended ref=email.

Lifewire.com has a good piece on HTTP Referrers (misspelled in spec as referer).

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    Typically if you want to track a link via parameters in Google Analytics you would use UTM parameters rather than the ref= parameter as you suggest. GA automatically knows how to track the UTM parameters built with their campaign URL builder tool – Stephen Ostermiller Jun 14 '19 at 22:58
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    Agree with @StephenOstermiller. If you do not have these, and GA is unable to track the source, it falls into the "direct" bucket, which is like a catch-all – Rob T Jul 16 '19 at 19:36

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