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Looking at yesterday, according to Google Analytics, I got six direct visitors to my site (their source/medium is direct/(none)). Only one ended up at the actual domain. The other five ended up at miscellaneous foo.com/xyz.html. I did not send out links to people by email, and I'm not sure how likely it is the people would have copy/pasted the URLs.

How do the visitors end up there? Is there a way to better capture where they might be coming from?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

It basically means these requests are missing the http referrer header. There are several reasons why that would be the case -

  1. A https page has a link to your website, and the user follows that link. Browsers don't send the referrer in case of a https -> http transition. A simple case is a search engine accessed via https.
  2. They are behind some kind of proxy that strips out referrer headers, or they have deliberately installed a browser plugin to do that.
  3. Someone is trying to scrape your website using a custom program (not browser), and is not sending the http referrer.

6 requests is a very small number. If you see several hundreds of requests, you could try to co-relate and find out more information. Otherwise, there is no definite answer.

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Okay, I think the HTTPS sounds the likeliest (most of the traffic is pretty local to people I know). Is it possible that I would get both traffic attributed to Facebook, and not, based on the type of login (HTTP/HTTPS) that users are using? (The 6 is over 2 days, or 15 of 26 visitors week, 1 of whom went to the root.) – mfg Mar 14 '11 at 18:00
@mfg - I didn't understand your question. What do you mean by attributed to "facebook and not"? – Sripathi Krishnan Mar 14 '11 at 18:20
@Sripathi - mfg wants to know whether Facebook may be sending traffic to the site from both HTTP and HTTPS sources (Facebook-specific question). Just tested and it does appear Facebook links out from both HTTP and HTTPS contexts. – danlefree Mar 14 '11 at 18:54
The only way you can influence the browser is by making your website https enabled. A https -> https transition preserves the referrer header. – Sripathi Krishnan Mar 14 '11 at 19:06
+1. This is an excellent answer. Worth including: Non-web sources, like mobile or desktop apps. – Yahel Mar 14 '11 at 20:13

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