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Understand information in your reports and troubleshoot reporting issues such as self-referrals, (not set) data, and inaccurate information
 
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referral traffic or direct traffic

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# 1
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The website I work with posts material used by college faculty to teach college classes. We have had many reports of programs that use our materials extensively but when I look in our referral data - they are not there. Most of these programs are using Blackboard or a similar course management system, so it seems as though these use data would show up as referrals. However, our google analytics data show an 11% referral rate and a 58% direct traffic rate for the semester so far. Am I doing something wrong? Is there a setting that is not set correctly? Your help would be appreciated.

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Re: referral traffic or direct traffic

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# 2
Top Contributor
Referrals on the web is a kind of a loose thing -- it is up to the referring server and browser whether (and what) will be sent as a REFERRER. Google Analytics can only report on what it gets. If Blackboard does not send a properly formatted REFERRER value, then GA will identify it as a direct visit. The other thing that could mess up a referral is if the server is https and your site is http (or vice versus). The referral may or may not get translated between the two security levels.
In any case, do not assume that direct visits are actually direct - they could be referrals or organic search results.
Mike Sullivan, Google Analytics Top Contributor
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Re: referral traffic or direct traffic

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# 3
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Thanks for your response. It's very helpful. Is there any way to compensate for or work around this issue? We use our data to target schools with low usage rates. If the data are not accurate, we will need to stop using them for this purpose.

Re: referral traffic or direct traffic

Top Contributor
# 4
Top Contributor
Possibly using the Service Provider or Network Domain might provide a more consistent view of where the traffic is coming from, especially if the schools have their own networks.
Mike Sullivan, Google Analytics Top Contributor
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