How to analyze Sources data

Last updated: January 13, 2017

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Product: HubSpot Marketing
Subscription: Basic, Professional, & Enterprise

Sources gives you a deeper look into how people are finding your site. It allows you to get insight on which channels are generating the most traffic, contacts, and customers. The report can be used to help you develop and define marketing campaigns by creating strategies based on historical performance.

Once you understand the data, you can use the Sources report to:

  • See the various ways people are finding your site.
  • Find out which channels yield the highest conversion rates.
  • Gather information on closed loop reporting - seeing through which source customers first found your site.
  • Compare marketing channels in one report.
  • Calculate ROI, by seeing where your marketing investments are paying off.

In this guide, you'll find detailed information about:

The next article, How to use the Sources Report to measure your marketing campaigns, builds off this article.

Visits, contacts, and customers

HubSpot defines a visit as any time a user reaches your site from an external source. HubSpot does not use timed sessions like some other analytics platforms, so every time a visitor hits your site from an external source, a visit is counted. HubSpot automatically excludes traffic from sites that are added to your Domains List in Reports Settings. One visit is generally made up of a series of page views (every time a page with HubSpot tracking code loads). Please note that these may or may not be unique visitors, but they are unique visits. For more information on the difference between visitors, visits and page views, check out this article.

Sources counts contacts when they convert for the first time on your site. The contact will be graphed under the attributed source of their first visit during the time period in which they first convert. Repeat submissions are not counted as contacts in Sources.

Sources defines customers as the number of contacts, who first converted during the given timeframe, that are now customers. Customers are not charted during the time frame in which they close, but rather when they first converted. By doing this, Sources tells you how many of those contacts during the timeframe are now customers.

Understanding what each Source represents

When you click on the name of any source, you'll view an additional breakdown of information. information.

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Organic Search

Organic Search displays visits from non-paid search results in known search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. If you click on Organic Search, you'll get a further drill down of the search terms that visitors found you using:

The first breakdown for Organic Search is the searched keyword. You'll likely see the first row containing 'Unknown keywords (SSL).' This is due to the way that some search engines encrypt data when users are logged in and Google encrypts all user search data, making it impossible to know which keyword lead to the visit.

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After clicking on a partcular keyword as the second breakdown, see the referring search engine, such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

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While back on the main Organic Search view, you'll have the ability to track the specific keywords that visitors used to find your website When you click this 'track' checkbox, this adds the specific term to your Keywords tool so you can track how this keyword is trending. If you're not sure what to optimize your content for, this may be a great start as the keywords listed in organic search can help you tailor your content to what people are searching. These words are how they are finding your site, so feel free to use them!

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Referrals display data from external sites linking to your website, thus producing a referral visit. For example, if Bloomberg recently linked to a blog post you wrote, then this would count as referral traffic, as they came via a link from a Bloomberg article to your website. Remember if you add domains to your Site Domains in Reports Settings, then it will not count as referral traffic.

If you click on the Referrals link, you'll see the first drill down of all the sites that are linking to your website. The first breakdown for referral traffic is the referring domain.

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The second breakdown for referral traffic are the specific pages that link to your site. One referring domain may have many pages that link to your site. Clicking this link takes you directly to that webpage. Please note, that if the link to your page has been removed by the original referrer, this will still remain in Sources as it has generated at least one visit from that referral source.

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Social Media

Social media counts links that come from a social website. This is different from an inbound link or referral traffic, as the content that was viewed was not linked from another source; social media allows users to share content they care about with other people. These social channels do not actually write content themselves; therefore social media isn't counted under inbound links or referral traffic.

In Social Media, you'll find the common channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, but you'll also find a handful of other sites that are considered social in nature, such as SlideShare, Reddit, Tumblr, and Wikipedia. Since Wikipedia is considered an open source encyclopedia, and links out to sources are meant solely for use in References, this gets counted under social (largely due to the open source nature of the website).

The breakdown of traffic for Social Media is the social channel that brought in your visitors. The second breakdown is the campaign associated with that visit (set within the Social Media Publishing tool in HubSpot or using the utm_campaign parameter for tracking URLs).

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Email Marketing

The first breakdown for Email Marketing traffic is the email's campaign name (set within the email tool for HubSpot emails or using the utm_campaign parameter for tracking URLs). If there is no campaign associated with the email, you'll see hs_email for standard emails sent from HubSpot.  Additionally, if you see hs_automation, this is the default campaign assigned to automated emails sent through workflows when no campaign is defined.

Note: For emails sent outside of HubSpot that link to your website that do not use a tracking URL, this will count as Direct Traffic as HubSpot has no way to decipher how the user got to your website. If you're not familiar yet with tracking URLs or just want to review how to make a tracking URL, take a look at this article.

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When you open a particular campaign, the second breakdown presents the name of the email, which is set by using the 'utm_content=' tracking parameter (this is done automatically for emails sent from HubSpot). Please note that emails that have been deleted display their original internal ID, not the name.

While HubSpot email sends don't generally yield new contacts in your Sources report, you sometimes may see new contacts generated from your emails, as a result of either:

  • Sent emails being forwarded to friends, family and/or colleagues of your contacts whom, in turn, converted on your website.
  • The campaign in question was an email sent outside of HubSpot with the necessary parameters to bucket the visit under email marketing, and then that email prompted a conversion on your website.
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When a non-automated email is sent through HubSpot, a marketing action is automatically created in your Sources report so you can see the marketing actions took during that time frame. Clicking on the checkbox allows you to see these marketing actions, which include self-created marketing actions and any standard email sent through HubSpot.

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Direct Traffic

Direct traffic visits that accessed your site through a direct URL input or a link that meets none of Sources bucketing criteria. There is virtually no way of finding out how exactly a visit came through when bucketed as Direct Traffic. For example, if a visitor texts a link to your website without any sourcing parameters on the URL to a friend, and they visit your website as a result, this is bucketed as Direct Traffic. The same goes true if you send out an email outside of HubSpot (say, through your personal/corporate email account) with a link to your website lacking any sourcing parameters, then the visit will result in Direct Traffic. Similarly, if the visitor manually types in your URL, then this will count as a Direct Traffic visit.

Since Direct Traffic is straightforward in it's bucketing, there is no breakdown for this source.

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Other Campaigns

If the source in your tracking URL is unidentifiable to bucket into a standard source, then it will go into Other Campaigns. Other Campaigns allows you to create a custom segment of source traffic. The first breakdown of Other Campaigns Traffic is campaign.

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The second breakdown for Other Campaigns is source/medium as dictated in your tracking URL. If none are found, it appears as none/none.

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Offline Sources

If you have this checked off by your graph, then you'll see another source of Offline Sources appear. They won't appear in your visits graph, as there are no visits associated with these offline contacts, but they will appear if you change visits to contacts or customers. When you open Offline Sources, you'll see a handful of topics such as API, Imported and Form:

  • Those bucketed under API were created via the Contacts API.
  • Those within the Contacts category were created manually, by creating a new contact from Contacts Home > Create new contact.
  • Those in Imported were imported through the imports tool. If a contact converted and at a later point was imported, they will not appear here. This displays only for new contacts created via import.
  • Those in Form contain filtered contacts. When a contact submits a form through a filtered IP, analytics updates and throws out the visits (not counting the submission towards your total). The contact has no visits and is therefore bucketed under Offline. Analytics doesn't receive data for original source data 1 (first drill down) and original source data 2 (second drill down), but it knows the conversion ID and recognizes it to be from a form, so it gets bucketed under Offline Sources.
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Paid Search

Paid search displays visits through paid search, like Google AdWords. To learn more about what visits get categorized as paid search, this article.

The breakdown for Paid Search is the campaign name, set using the 'utm_campaign=' tracking parameter. If no campaign is present, this is presented as 'No Campaign'. The second breakdown is the keyword term searched for by the person who clicked your ad. If the keyword parameter is not found in the visited URL, the term is set to 'Content Network (Adsense or Other)'. If the keyword parameter is present in the visited URL, but it was encrypted by the ad service, the term is set to 'Unknown Keywords SSL'.

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Viewing contacts in Sources

On your main Sources view, you'll find the number of contacts and customers generated from a particular source. You can click this number to view those contacts in that particular source.

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When you click this number, you're presented with a list of contacts that converted from that original source. You'll find their name, their first time seen, and their source of conversion.

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From here, you can export this data or create a new static list of these contacts. You can read about adding and removing contacts from lists if you have questions on this process. You can also use contact properties such as Original Source Type to create Smart lists of contacts.

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