Google Analytics now reports untagged adwords traffic as direct traffic

We recently had a spike in traffic for one of our clients that we couldn't explain. The spike appeared in organic traffic when we excluded their main keyword but we couldn't find out what the source of this traffic was. As we couldn't quite get to the bottom of it, we decided that we might as well go to Google and get the benefit of their wisdom on the subject. Although they never did explain our spike it threw up an interesting change in the way that Google treats untagged traffic.


While asking Google about our strange traffic, we mentioned that we suspected that it might be untagged traffic. They countered by ignoring the main question and saying that if it were untagged traffic then it would appear as direct traffic. We had understood that untagged traffic would appear as organic traffic, hence our original theory about the cause of this activity, so this was surprising.

Google then clarified the situation saying that

"untagged PPC traffic will now also be appearing as "Direct", whereas prior to the changes at the end of March, this traffic would have been considered "Organic"."

So now we have two questions

1) Why make this change? Personally I would rather that if tagging goes missing that the traffic is still at least reported as being from a search engine rather than direct. 2) Why do we have a big, unexplained spike in organic traffic?

Has anyone else noticed this? If anyone has any answers or theories as to why Google have made this move then we'd love to hear them.

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About the author
Richard Cotton

Richard Cotton

Richard Cotton joins the team at Distilled as the Paid Search Marketer. He graduated with a Philosophy degree from Southampton University and will therefore put his analytical brain to good use as our dedicated PPC marketer. Rich C-h264720-v2 //...   read more