A Strange and Mercurial Beast
July 24, 2009 3:58 AM   Subscribe

I use Google Analytics to track traffic to my crappy little writing blog. On Wednesday, I had 20 visits from 13 visitors. On Thursday, I had 99 visits from 89 visitors, of whom 95% were "direct link" visitors. This is obviously nonsense. What on Earth happened?

Likewise, GA insisted two weeks ago that I'd had upwards of forty unique hits from a particular site which, when investigated, proved to be a blog in Portuguese with only two entries, both dated 2007, in which the author appeared to be reviewing brands of laptop. There were no other posts and no other links visible. Was this related or a whole new brand of wacky problem?

Please bear in mind that my knowledge of computers is only marginally more advanced than, "Ug like magic box. Magic box make pretty talky-pictures and words."
posted by Scattercat to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's really impossible to answer your question without looking at your blog. But my traffic spikes every time I talk about Joss Whedon (the creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer), so you may have inadvertently blogged about something that people are interested in.
posted by musofire at 4:14 AM on July 24, 2009

Best answer: Can't help on the first part, but this might help on the second. Or at least explain it somewhat.
posted by darksong at 4:52 AM on July 24, 2009

Response by poster: Hey, that does explain the Brazilian thing.

Anyway, the issue is that Analytics differentiates between links from other sites, search engines, and so on. The huge spike claimed that all the new visitors were traveling directly to my site, i.e. either typing the website into the location bar or using a bookmark. You see why I find this scenario unlikely.

(Especially since my site, which you can see in my profile, is just short-short flash fiction and not anything topical or that would logically show up on search engines other than in the most roundabout way possible.)
posted by Scattercat at 6:00 AM on July 24, 2009

Interestingly I had about 12 hits last week from a similar Brazilian site with an old GPS article. I thought it was odd and unexplicable and the Google discussion sheds light on it.
posted by JJ86 at 6:08 AM on July 24, 2009

Best answer: "Direct" necessarily mean typing the URL or using a bookmark. There are other options. For example, they could be copying and pasting the URL from a webpage, email, Twitter post, or somewhere else where it was listed without being an actual HTML link.
posted by miskatonic at 6:17 AM on July 24, 2009

Best answer: I believe that if things are getting passed around in IRC or IM, they'll show up as direct traffic. So if someone dropped your link into an active chat room, that might account for the hits with no referrer.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:20 AM on July 24, 2009

Response by poster: Interesting... Interesting... I didn't think about the chatroom thing. The mystery deepens even as it grows clearer...
posted by Scattercat at 6:50 AM on July 24, 2009

The idea here is that logs show the referrer. So lets say you click here. The webmaster at example.com will see something like this in his log:


So it could be

Now if you simply type example.com/mypage.html into your address box, or click on it from a bookmark or other non-embedded web source you wont get a referrer so your string will look like:

This is all from memory and Im sure Im missing a few things, but generally this is how referrers work. Im guessing your software calls a link without a referrer a "direct link."
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:18 AM on July 24, 2009

You might find that by using statcounter.com you can sometimes track a bit more on visitor paths etc than you can with Google. I use both.
posted by dripped at 7:45 AM on July 24, 2009

Or maybe your site was linked from somewhere frequented by the sort of cranks who have RefControl or equivalent (like me), all of whose requests look like direct links.
posted by Zed at 11:14 AM on July 24, 2009

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