I am seeing quite a few conversions which have as source accounts.google.com (almost 40%).

AFAIK, in the new Universal Analytics as soon as a user has a Referrer set a new session is started. So if a user is getting on my page, and creates an account using social auth (e.g. Google accounts) when being redirected back, will this create a new session? I guess this would explain that there are many conversions coming from accounts.google.com - is it safe to enter accounts.google.com into the Referral Exclusion List? And more - what about Facebook logins, those would show up as facebook.com, but I probably don't want to exclude facebook.com as referrer?

Any ideas how to deal with UA referrers and social logins?


1 Answer 1


I can confirm that Google Analytics will start a new session when the user comes back from logging in with the referrer from another site. I don't have as big a problem with it on my sites because not many of my users log in. From Google's referral exclusion documentation:

How excluding referral traffic affects your data

By default, a referral automatically triggers a new session. When you exclude a referral source, traffic that arrives to your site from the excluded domain doesn’t trigger a new session. If you want traffic arriving from a specific site to trigger a new session, don't include that domain in this table.

Because each referral triggers a new session, excluding referrals (or not excluding referrals) affects how sessions are calculated in your account. The same interaction can be counted as either one or two sessions, based on how you treat referrals. For example, a user on my-site.example goes to your-site.example, and then returns to my-site.example. If you do not exclude your-site.example as a referring domain, two sessions are counted, one for each arrival at my-site.example. If, however, you exclude referrals from your-site.example, the second arrival to my-site.example does not trigger a new session, and only one session is counted.

So putting accounts.google.com in the referral exclusion list would solve the problem for Google login, but as you say, you can't do that for Facebook.

The only solution that I can think of would be to strip the referrer when the user comes back, before the Google Analytics JavaScript can get to it. On my site, I redirect when I get the login information from Google or Facebook. Before, I used a 302 redirect that passes the referrer data. I changed it to a meta refresh redirect to remove the external referrer:

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=/after-login.html">

It strips the referrer entirely in Firefox and IE. In Chrome, Opera, and Safari, the referrer changes to the refresh URL (which would be from your site).

  • I have the same situation. But after putting accounts.google.com into the exclusion list they show up as (direct) now. What is needed to retain the original referral?
    – M Schenkel
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 17:44
  • 1
    @M Schenkel How can you know that they are all direct traffic now? Do you see a spike since the change I assume? But perhaps most of them were already coming from a "direct" traffic source? If you rely on the spike, perhaps it's better to check the other traffic sources, there might be smaller spikes for those too. But the biggest spike being of direct traffic might be misleading and make you believe that the google accounts are all "converted" to "direct".
    – user45375
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 18:08

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