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What Causes Google Analytics Direct Traffic?

What is Direct Traffic in Google Analytics?

Direct Traffic is a Google Analytics dimension that can appear in your Google Analytics reports:

  • All Traffic Sources report
  • Direct Traffic report

Direct traffic, one of the traffic sources in Google Analytics, refers to users who arrive at your website without referral information in the HTTP headers.

Other traffic sources include Organic Search Traffic and Referral Traffic: Google Analytics Traffic Sources.

Google Analytics can report paid search traffic or advertising traffic when you use Google Analytics Campaign Tracking.

In this article, we’re going to reveal what traffic is regarded as Direct Traffic, and what traffic is not considered Direct Traffic in Google Analytics reports.

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Direct Traffic in Google Analytics Reports

If your Google Analytics setup is correct, sessions in Google Analytics reports will show up as direct traffic when users:

  • Enter your site’s URL (e.g. www.gordonchoi.com) directly in browsers.
  • Visit your website directly from web browser bookmarks.
  • Click on untagged URL links (e.g. www.gordonchoi.com) in emails or instant messaging conversations (including MSN Messenger, Skype, QQ, Whatsapp, etc).
  • Click on untagged URL links (e.g. www.gordonchoi.com) embedded in PDF documents, Word documents or Excel spreadsheets.
  • Click on untagged URL links (e.g. www.gordonchoi.com) in Android phone applications (e.g. Facebook app, Twitter app).
  • Click on a 302 redirect link (temporary redirect link) in which the redirect server returns a blank referrer (direct).
  • Click on URL links on secured web pages that are unable to pass referral information through to the URL links’ destination pages.

If your Google Analytics setup is correct, but some of your web pages are missing Google Analytics tracking code:

  • When visitors enter your site through landing pages that are missing Google Analytics tracking code, and then click on an internal link pointing to another web page on your site that has the tracking code correctly inserted, sessions will be credited to direct traffic.

For the definition of “sessions”, refer to Definitions of Metrics and Dimensions.

Not Direct Traffic in Google Analytics Reports

Sessions that will not contribute to direct traffic in Google Analytics:

  • A visitor’s first visit to your site was through organic search engines, referring sites, or all other tagged traffic sources (e.g. Adwords ads, BingAds, Baidu PPC ads, Facebook ads, Twitter links). Subsequently, the same visitor directly lands on your site (e.g. bookmark) which makes a second visit. As the campaign tracking’s cookie (utmz) of Google Analytics is set to expire in 6 months in the visitor’s browser, the second visit will be assigned a non-direct referrer.
  • When Adwords auto-tagging is turned off, and your Adwords keywords and/or ads are not tagged with Google Analytics’ utm parameters, the sessions will be credited to organic (unpaid search).
  • Other PPC (paid search) campaigns (e.g. BingAds, Yahoo Search Marketing (Overture), Baidu PPC, etc) that are not tagged with Google Analytics’ utm parameters will have sessions credited to organic search.
  • Display ad campaigns that are not tagged with Google Analytics’ utm parameters will have sessions credited to referring sites.
  • Web browsers that support tabbed browsing (e.g. Firefox, Google’s Chrome) pass referrers’ information to links subsequently opened in all the new tabs.

To track PPC campaigns correctly, refer to Google Analytics PPC conversion tracking.

Web Analytics / Google Analytics

Regarding the installation and/or setup of Google Analytics on WordPress sites, I have written this article in Chinese version, where 3 installation methods are revealed.

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