Discover Links Using Google Analytics New Backlink URL Report

google analytics iconToday the Google Analytics team announced that we will start seeing backlink URLs in their newly released Social Reports. According to the announcement post, written by Ilya Grigorik, Software Engineering Manager, Google Analytics (and PostRank Founder):

“These reports provide another layer of social insight showing which of your content attracts links, and enables you to keep track of conversations across other sites that link to your content. Most website and blog owners had no easy mechanism to do this in the past, but we see it as another important feature for holistic social media reports. When you know what your most linked content is, it is then also much easier to replicate the success and ensure that you are building relationships with those users who actively link to you the most.”

Where To Find The Backlink URLs Report

The Backlink information is not easy to find. First visit the pages tab on the Social reports (this link should take you directly to this report). Then click on a specific URL. Here is what you will see now:

google analytics backlink

As indicated in the screenshot above, click on the Activity Stream tab above the graphs. Then you will arrive at another page that gathers all Social Data Hub conversations related to this specific page, as seen below:

social conversations

If you click the Events tab shown above you will find the Backlinks information. This information appears among all other social events like +1s, Delicious bookmarks, and others. For each backlink URL you will be able to View Activity, i.e. visit the page with link, or to View Page, i.e. view the page linked.

backlinks report

As you will see in the reports, while this information is very useful, it is still lacking a centralized place where users can see all the linked pages aggregated. The way this information is being organized is very focused on Social Media professionals, it treats links as another event related to the post. And the reports do not allow any filtering or segmentation. If we look at the Webmaster Tools (screenshot below), the information is more focused on SEOs, showing in a glance where the links are coming from and to which pages.

Postscript 1: According to a comment by Ilya Grigorik on a Google+ post, there is a way to find the centralized information in the reports, here is his explanation on how to do it.

I should also point out that there is indeed a way for users to see all of the linked pages aggregated, though it requires some GA ninja tricks at the moment. We’re working on making it more intuitive for users. Here it is:

    1. Just as you outlined in the post, navigate to “Pages”, select a URL, click on “Activity Stream” – this shows you the activitystream for just that URL
    2. Ninja trick #1: At the top of the page where it shows the breadcrumb with the current page, click on “ALL” – this report will show you all activity across all the pages in chronological order.
    3. Ninja trick #2: Scroll down to any trackback activity and click on the (green) trackback icon: this filters the activitystream to just trackbacks.. And voila, you see a list of most recent trackbacks across all of your pages.

webmaster tools links

Social Signals And Backlinks In The Same Bucket

This addition is interesting in that Google decided to add this information to the Social reports instead of adding it to the SEO reports. This decision makes sense from a Google Analytics perspective as this information, like all other Social information, is a factor that happens outside the website and, as such, it could be analyzed in the same way we analyze Google+ activity.

However, this information is more often used by SEOs in order to optimize pages and understand which pages are getting the most links. As discussed above, it appears that these reports are more focused on Social Media professionals rather than SEO professionals.

It is also interesting to look at this in the light of Danny Sullivan’s post discussing Social signals for Google and Bing, this decision shows how backlinks and social signals are seen as part of the same bucket.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Google | Google: Analytics | Google: Webmaster Central | Top News


About The Author: is the Founder of Conversion Journey, a Google Analytics Certified Partner. He is also the founder of Online Behavior, a Marketing Measurement & Optimization website. You can follow him on Google+ or Twitter.

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  • Mike Williams

    Im defiantly looking forward to this!

  • Haukur Jarl

    good job sir :)

  • BumpSEO

    Thank for information!

  • Pravin Gupta


    Awesome information ! ! 
    This is very impressive update in GA ! ! More help for Social media optimization ! ! 

  • Karan Goel

    Now here’s how to utilise this info:  Get in touch with the people who +, like or RT you. Interact with them more. Check their sites, comment on their blogs..

  • cutey

    That’s a really great feature, I’m still surprised we don’t see more social impact in the SERPS.

  • Anna Lewis

    Great to see lots more data and information in Google Analytics, but what are your thoughts on the fact that usernames and personally identifiable information is now in Google Analytics? I found it strange, I like to see the data but I think making it this easy to see is invading users privacy a little. I’ve put my thoughts here:

  • Website Design Company

    Who says Google is being old, It is being smarter, now it will be easy for both search engine, as well as to webmasters to know and evaluate about their off-page activities.
      Well I am very happy with this recent news, And lots of thanks to “searchengineland” to give this news.
      Now it will be easier to track spam, and we can effectively fight with this. 

  • SEO Services

    I can’t see this report in my GA, is there any code to manipulate into this site?

  • IM-SEO

    Why don’t they just integrate Webmaster tools and save us all the time of logging in to two separate things!

  • Nick Stamoulis

    “This decision makes sense from a Google Analytics perspective as this
    information, like all other Social information, is a factor that happens
    outside the website”

    I never looked at it like that, since link building has always been under the SEO umbrella, but that makes a lot of sense! You can’t control who links to you, just like you can’t control who share your content on social networks. You can only track and monitor.

  • Brittany Highland

    Is there a reason my Activity Stream tab isn’t showing up next to Social Referral? Is it something I have to set up?

  • Rubik Briminam

     You need to click on a specific Shared URL first. Activity Stream tab will appear then.

  • Garavi Gujarat

     i clicked on a specific shared URL, then i saw activity stream, then i clicked on events tab but i can’t see anything, is there any input that i want to set up?

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  • Page21

    I have no data in the hub for any stream?

  • Brittany Highland

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. That was the step I overlooked.

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  • Kathy Long

    Doesn’t surprise me that Google puts this with the social analytics because that’s what inbound links were meant to be initially anyway, i.e., evidence that OTHERS liked you and that you were relevant to THEM. Google is in the business of giving PEOPLE what they want and who better to tell them than PEOPLE. So, yeah, I like that they seem to be classifying inbound links as social signals.   

  • Pbs Webmasters

    very useful update in GA….

  • Geoff Moore

    This is really going to be helpful in understanding ROR on your social media marketing techniques and activities. Cheers Google :)

  • dan barker

    hi, Daniel, after much fiddling around I managed to get to this:

    That should be a shareable link that takes you straight to ‘trackbacks’ (aka backlinks).


  • John

    Very useful, this helps a lot. Thx  for this article.

  • Itagiba Machado

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  • William Seabrook

    Interesting stuff. I’ve just come back from an event in Manchester called SAScon, and it feels like there is a positive move towards good content and natural sharing. 

    Cheers for the blog,

  • James Sanson

    I am not too thrilled with this new feature. 

  • Jason Gammon


  • Tennistas

    Hope this will roll out also in the netherlands soon. Sharing is the new linkbuidling.

  • Samuel Junghenn

    Great thanks Daniel, I hated the new analytics to start with but now… :-)

  • DesignModo

    I do not have this tab in GA account, strange, but if click direct to the link provided in the post appear this error in GA –

    Why i do not see this tab?

  • Bradley Davis

    Interesting addition and I guess it shows that social is really influencing serps if Google want you to be able to see the data.

  • James Pie

    Discover Links Using Google Analytics New Backlink URL Report this is realy very cool i like it. 

  • BestMark

    Great post!

  • Jesse Rees

    This will be super helpful and for sure social is making a difference and rightfully so with the percentage of usage it has on the internet.  Most of all surfing is social and there are more and more social networking websites going up daily.  I think they will be the major factor in a year or so because of the buzz and analytics visible to every user on the web.

  • Dimitri

    Impressive update!

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