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How can I list the sources of (direct) / (none) traffic?

There are multiple reasons for (direct) / (none) traffic as already discussed here. My site has agencies accessing it for development and content management and also bots checking the online state. Of course, I excluded all the IPs in the Google Analytics Filters.

But still I have huge amounts of (direct) / (none) traffic. I have several other big sites running in the same environment not behaving like that at all.

To examine properly I need to analyse the causing sources. Is it possible to get that?

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If users don't send you the referrer information about where they came from, it is very hard to pull it out of thin air. You usually just have to live with not knowing much about direct visitors.

The reasons that visitors appear as direct are:

  • They type the URL into the browser.
  • They have the page bookmarked.
  • They visit the page from outside the browser, such as clicking a link in an email or chat client.
  • They have configured their browser to suppress the referrer header
  • They are actually a bot that does not send a referrer header, sends a user agent that mimics a real browser, and triggers analytics.

Here is an interesting article about a relevant experiment: Experiment Shows Up To 60% Of “Direct” Traffic Is Actually Organic Search. They excluded themselves from search engines for a day and found that they lost lots of direct visitors. Their conclusion is that many people visiting from search engines configure their browsers to not send referrers.

If you send out a newsletter, many of the clicks from it may appear to be direct. When sending out newsletters be sure to tag the URLs with parameters that let you know the source of the traffic.

Google Analytics does a decent job of weeding out the bots already. To trigger analytics, the bot has to execute JavaScript. You could also set up a honey pot URL to catch bots. Make a link on your page that is well hidden so that users won't click on it. Any time that page is visited, it will be a bot and you can exclude it from your stats.

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  • thanks alot for a good answer. especially the "many people visiting from search engines configure their browsers to not send referrers" part is interesting. – tlb Apr 26 '16 at 15:26
  • Building on the "direct traffic is from search engines" idea...one of the things you can do is segment the direct traffic by the landing page dimension. If you see a smattering of landing pages, then it's a good indication that it's search engine traffic. – Andrew C Apr 26 '16 at 21:11
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In your Google Analytics property

  1. Go to "Acquisition" -> "All Traffic" -> "Source/Medium".
  2. Click on "Secondary Dimension" and type "Network Domain" to make it show up and select it.

The so-configured table will show visitor's FQDN.

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  • Don't mean to disrespect Stephen Ostermiller's answer in case I articulated my question unprecisely. But this answer is what I was looking for. – tlb Apr 26 '16 at 15:41

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