Block Explorers Demystified! (part 1)

Bottom Line Up Front

Block explorers like Etherscan and BSCscan contain a wealth of information about a wallet or smart contract, but can be overwhelming to navigate. This first of two guides will explain what each piece of information is, and what they mean. The next guide will go into more detail about how the information can be used in research and investigations.


Everything done on a blockchain - every transaction, every swap, every contract signing - is public. Block explorers are how you can search, view, and analyze that data. Every major blockchain (ETH, BSC, AVAX, etc)  has its own explorer, and each explorer will only show information for that chain (so, you can only view ETH tokens/transactions on Etherscan, for example). But, they are all formatted the same, so if you learn your way around one you’re good to go with the others. Now, let’s dive in.

Wallet/Contract Information

  1. The wallet or contract address you are viewing (both are viewed in the same way on block explorers)
  2. This button will open a new window with links to every other blockchain the wallet has activity on. For example, if you hold both ETH and BNB in the same wallet, this button would show links for Etherscan and BSCscan.
  3. A label given to the address by the owner or the explorer. While usually a token name or name of its function (like Contract Deployer), sometimes the explorer will label malicious contracts or wallets associated with major hacks.
  4. The balance of the blockchain’s native token held by the wallet. So, on BSCscan, it will show BNB only.
  5. The current value and price of the native token held.
  6. Dropdown menu will show the name, quantity, and value of all other tokens held by the wallet, with their total value displayed on the dropdown window. This total does not include the native token.
  7. For contracts, this will show what wallet created the contract, and the transaction hash from when it was done. Very useful when researching a new project to see if the creator has launched any other projects, and where the funding for a project came from.
  8. The name and ticker for a token, if you're viewing a smart contract. Clicking on it will bring you to the token itself, where you can view the total supply, holders, transfers, etc. But more on that in part 2.


Below the general wallet/contract information is all of the transaction data. Any time a contact is signed by a wallet, tokens are bought/sold/transferred, or anything else at all is done, it will be listed here. There is a lot of info in a small space, but it’s essentially formatted like a spreadsheet, with each row being a single transaction. Let’s take a look.

  1. This tab will show you all of the wallet transactions, including transfers, token approvals, contract creations, etc. Even failed transactions will show.
  2. This tab will change the data to show only token transactions (buys and sells).
  3. Most explorers have built-in analytic tools that show trends for a contract over time. More on those in part 2 of this guide.
  4. Anyone can leave a comment on a wallet or contract address. Like the comments section on YouTube, though, this is best ignored. 
  5. Every transaction on a blockchain is given a unique identifier, the transaction hash, so that any given action can be indexed and found. Clicking on this will give details on that particular transaction beyond what is shown in the main block explorer page (example below)
  6. The type of transaction that took place. Transfer, Contract Creation, Approve, Claim, Stake, etc.
  7. How long ago the transaction took place. By default, the format is as pictured (“a day ago”, “12 hours ago”, etc). If you click on “Age”, it will change to a timestamp format.
  8. The wallet that initiated the transaction. For transfers, this is where the funds started. If the “From” address is ever a null address (0x000…000), that means a coin or NFT was minted at that transaction. 
  9. The address that the “From” wallet interacted with or sent funds to.
  10. The value of the funds transferred, shown in the chain’s native token. On the “Token Transaction” tab, this will show the quantity of tokens bought or sold, rather than their native token value.
  11. Menu of available filters that let you show only outgoing, incoming, or contract creation transactions (among others). 

Transaction Hash

Clicking on the transaction hash will give you more granular details about the transaction. In some cases, multiple actions can take place in a single transaction, such as making several purchases and sending funds to multiple wallets. Some information, like the timestamp and to/from wallets are the same as in the main transaction explorer, so no need to cover those again. Instead, I’ll just highlight what is unique to the transaction hash.

  1. The full transaction hash that can be shared or saved. 
  2. The actual transactions that took place, step by step. In this case, it was a purchase from PancakeSwap, and there were three transactions behind the scenes to make it happen: the buyer sent BNB to PancakeSwap; PancakeSwap turned that BNB into WBNB; Pancakeswap sent the buyer their purchased tokens. 
  3. The BNB and USD value of the purchase. The USD value is shown at current rates (from when the page was opened), but clicking on it will show the estimated USD value at the time of the transaction. 
  4. Gas fee paid for the transaction.
  5. The BNB closing price on the day of the transaction. 

The Takeaway

When researching a potential investment or investigating on-chain activities, block explorers are an invaluable resource. They are a public, permanent, and immutable record of everything that has taken place on a blockchain. In part 2 of the guide, I’ll go into more detail about mapping wallets and tracking transactions, as well as some tools and resources available to analyze the data.

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