Increase in Direct traffic after a site migration

Here’s one I see all the time. A client has just gone through a replatform and migrated their website. All of a sudden Direct traffic goes through the roof.

As I’m the “Google Analytics guy” I’m generally the one who has to solve this. In almost all instances it has the same root cause…


These are often a key part of any site migration, different platforms won’t always allow you to be as specific with your urls as you’d like and so you have no choice but to do a huge, time consuming mapping and redirection exercise in order to make sure that links to your most valuable pages still function.

You then ask your devs to implement said redirects. More often than not those same devs will be buried under a mountain of Jira tickets as they try to get the site ready for whatever launch deadline you are working towards. They get it done, but often it seems to be the path of least resistance solution which can have unintended consequences.

2 common issues I see caused by redirects after a migration

  1. The browser lands on the site, is 301 redirected, the originating referrer isn’t passed so the session becomes a self-referral (aka Direct session)
  2. The browser lands on the site, the redirect happens but it doesn’t pass the url parameters such as the Google Ads gclid.

The example below was from a recent client who experienced the second of these issues. You imagine how problematic it would be to attribute the majority of your PPC traffic to the Direct channel, and that’s exactly what happened here.

To further confuse matters we actually twigged this pretty early on and had all the urls updated in the PPC ads within a few days, so why did it take almost a fortnight to resolve?

Well it turned out that the new platform also had a new GEOIP redirect implementation, and on the first visit if a specific cookie wasn’t in place it would cause the url parameters to be stripped. Took a bit of head scratching to find that one as when we were troubleshooting we weren’t new users a lot of the time.

Still, the lesson was reinforced. If you have migrated and your Analytics are showing a massive shift towards Direct it’s unlikely to be the tagging, look first for redirects.

Coleman Marketing Services

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