Google Analytics emphasizes their ability to show clients where traffic is coming from. Whether people came from organic search, paid search, social media, or specific site referrals, Google Analytics prides themselves on the ability to give clients measurable data to make efficient and actionable marketing decisions for their brand. So why, when we login and review traffic sources are we seeing “(direct/none)”? For the purpose of this article, one of the main reasons why you could be seeing source/medium is because, by default, HTTPS websites do not send referrer data to non-HTTPS (or HTTP) websites. To throw a wrench into the mix, on Wednesday, April 27th, Google announced that they now will be securing all traffic communication of websites using Google Analytics, whether sites are using HTTPS or not. So what does this mean for users?
Marketers that manage their client’s accounts may see a lower bounce rate. This is because HTTPS-encrypted traffic runs slower than traffic that is not encrypted, and as a result, Google Analytics may not be able to track and capture short-visit traffic. Moreover, their tracking pixel won’t have enough time to fire and reach Google Analytics if a user leaves within 1 second of opening the page. Since the number of total visitors may drop, the bounce rate may decrease.
A lower bounce rate normally indicates that people are staying on your site longer because the information you have given them is valuable and relevant. With the new change, your bounce rate may decrease because the people coming and leaving your site within 1 second may not be tracked. For clients and direct users, this kind of information may become slightly misleading depending on the number of people who are behaving this way on your site.
Google Analytics is also anticipating that users with firewalls visiting your site will block encrypted traffic. With that said, Google Analytics will not be able to collect any user data information on that visitor. Bottom line, not only are you seeing “(direct/none)” as a traffic source that may stem from HTTPS websites not sending referrer data to non-HTTPS (or HTTP) websites, you may see misleading data that shows a decrease in the number of people that are coming from “(direct/none).”
Although there is no implementation impact and no code changes required for users as Google Analytics plans to take care of everything needed to encrypt your traffic, the change will be effective immediately and there is no way to opt out of it either.