The one thing that you don’t know about and the referral exclusion list

Many businesses use PayPal to accept online payments.

But this can create tracking issues in Google Analytics.

Whenever a customer leaves your website to make payment via paypal and then return to your website, Google Analytics often attribute sales to instead to the original traffic source.

You can often find appearing as a top referrer in Google Analytics Referral report:

When you add to the referral exclusion list, people who arrive to your website from, do not trigger a new Google Analytics session and the traffic from the is reported as direct traffic by Google Analytics.

So adding to the referral exclusion list will not help you track the original referrer.

The best way to track original referrals while using, is to use one of the direct Payment gateways solutions provided by PayPal like: ‘PayPal Payflow Pro‘ or ‘PayPal Payments Pro‘.

When you use direct payment gateway then your customers can complete transaction without leaving your website and Google Analytics do not attribute sales to but instead to the original traffic source.

Note: The referral exclusion does not work retroactively.

So any visit/sales attributed to before adding to the referral exclusion list will still be attributed to in GA reports.

Therefore you need to make sure that once you have added a domain to the referral exclusion list, you look at the referral report from the time period when you first implemented referral exclusion.

Related Article: Tracking true referrals in Google Analytics when using PayPal and other payment gateways

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Himanshu Sharma

Certified web analyst and founder of

My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

  • Over eleven years' experience in SEO, PPC and web analytics
  • Google Analytics certified
  • Google AdWords certified
  • Nominated for Digital Analytics Association Award for Excellence
  • Bachelors degree in Internet Science
  • Founder of and

I am also the author of three books:

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