Google Analytics Direct Traffic – Most kept Secret

 

Today I am going to reveal one of the most kept secret in Google Analytics which will fundamentally change the way you look at revenue and conversions generated through direct traffic for good.

What you probably don’t know is, how Google attributes conversions to Direct Traffic. Direct traffic is a SEO killer which I have said and proved several times through various case studies and conversion segments:

Truth about direct traffic (The old news)

All untagged or improperly tagged marketing campaigns from display ads to emails can be treated as direct traffic by Google.  

Whenever a referrer is not passed, the traffic is treated as direct traffic by Google.

Mobile applications don’t send a referrer, word/PDF documents don’t send a referrer. 302 redirects sometimes caused the referrer to be dropped.

Sometimes browsers don’t pass the referrer.

During http to https redirect (or vice versa) the referrer is not passed because of security reasons.

All such traffic is treated as direct traffic by Google.

 Source: You are doing Google Analytics all wrong. Here is why

For all the avid readers of my blog, this is an old news.  So what is the new news then?

 

Google attributes conversions to direct traffic in 2 ways.

1. In case of non-multi channel funnel reports in Google Analytics, the conversion is attributed to the previous non-direct campaign/source if there is one. For example:

If a person clicked on an organic search listing to visit your website and  then later returned to your website directly and made a purchase then Google will attribute conversion to the organic search and not to the direct traffic.

Lets say a user visit your website through a keyword ‘excel for seo‘. A few days later, he came directly to your website

Now in Google Analytics non-multi channel funnel reports you will see the user’s activity in your report like this:
Keyword “excel for seo” – visits: 2
Direct – Visits: 0

 

2. In case of multi channel funnel reports in Google Analytics, the conversion is attributed to the direct traffic (provided direct traffic is the last interaction) even if previous campaign/source is non-direct. For example:

If a person clicked on an organic search listing to visit your website and then later returned to your website directly and made a purchase then Google will attribute conversion to the direct traffic and not to the organic search.

Lets say a user visit your website through a keyword ‘Facebook Analytics‘. A few days later, he came directly to your website

Now in Google Analytics multi channel funnel reports you will see the user’s activity in your report like this:
Keyword “Facebook Analytics” – visits: 1
Direct – Visits: 1

So Google attributes conversions to direct traffic in 2 ways and not just in one way. Feel free to confirm my findings yourself.

Takeaway – When you are analysing the impact of direct traffic on your business bottom-line, it is wise to look and draw conclusions from the non-multi channel funnel reports rather than the multi channel funnel reports as non-multi channel funnel reports present true customer buying behavior in case of direct traffic.

Other Posts you may find useful:

 


My new Book is now available both in Paperback and kindle format: Maths and Stats for Web Analytics and Conversion Optimization

 

 

Himanshu Sharma

Certified web analyst and founder of OptimizeSmart.com

himanshu sharma optimizesmart

My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses in finding and fixing their Google Analytics and conversion issues.

  • More than ten years' experience in SEO, PPC and web analytics
  • Certified web analyst (master level) from MarketMotive.com
  • Google Analytics certified
  • Google AdWords certified
  • Nominated for Digital Analytics Association Award for Excellence
  • Bachelors degree in Internet Science
  • Founder of OptimizeSmart.com and EventEducation.com

I am also the author of the book Maths and Stats for Web Analytics and Conversion Optimization

If you have any questions or comments please contact me