How to Exclude Referrals in GA4

Digital Marketing

Three people skiing down a slop as website traffic, some of the skiers may be referral traffic.

How often have you experienced a significant uptick in traffic only to realise that it wasn’t converting? When you dig deeper, you realise that strangely, the traffic was actually coming from your own domain.

Yes, oddly, sometimes traffic can come from your own domain!

We call this referral traffic - that is, any traffic that comes from any other website to your own. Sometimes however, not all referral traffic is helpful. But, it can often capture anything from spam to returning visitors from a payment funnel.

The effective interpretation of referral traffic will allow you to properly evaluate the quality of visitors to your site and optimize for them.



Headline: Google Analytics 4 (GA4) allows you to set conditions that identify certain unwanted referrals.

Highlight: Excluding referrals gives you the opportunity to clean up your data set, providing a more accurate picture for your business or organization.

List unwanted referrals: In Universal Analytics, you had the referrals exclusion list where specific domains were highlighted as direct traffic rather than as referral. In GA4, you have the “List Unwanted Referrals” functionality that now sets out specific conditions to identify unwanted referrals.

Automatic self-referral detection: GA4 has the ability to now detect and fix self-referral issues - but it requires a couple of conditions to be met.

Recommended action: Although GA4 has received an update that ensures all internal referrals are automatically detected, it is important to delve into your other sources of traffic and identify what requires exclusion.


This article is for website owners who need unified measurement across more than one domain, e.g. across a customer website and a separate shopping-cart domain, and don't want that traffic categorized as referrals.

In this video by Loves Data, learn how to exclude referrals in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) using the new 'List Unwanted Referrals' feature. This is an important configuration option to use if you have added your GA4 tag to multiple domains to collect insights as users navigate between your websites.

Unwanted referrals can also include internal traffic that might be skewing your data. In this article, the team at Google outlines how to filter out internal traffic by creating a rule that defines the IP address or range of IP addresses that represent internal traffic.

This is a great guide published by the team at Hume with step-by-step guidance on how to exclude referrals in GA4. Better yet, they provide helpful insights into how to do so during the data collection process.

A great article by the team Optimize Smart will give you a refresher on referral traffic. Contrasting the differences from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), they talk you through how to configure referrals in GA4 with helpful use cases for reference as well.

The team at Data Enthusiast has published a visual guide on how to exclude referrals in GA4. But they don’t stop there, with insights into how to exclude referrals in Google Tag Manager with some examples of referral exclusion used effectively too.

Category: Digital Marketing