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Non-hyperlinked URL shows holding page as referral
Sgt_Kickaxe

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Msg#: 4626891 posted 2:44 pm on Nov 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

In a little test I places a text url on a page and asked several co-workers to copy and paste the url to their browsers and visit the page. I watched them do it, the url was not a hyperlink and was not transformed into one by their computers.

Analytics reports these visits as referrals from the page containing the url anyway. How?

 

lucy24

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 9:24 pm on Nov 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Has anyone ever fine-tooth-combed the GA javascript? You'd want to see whether anything in there studies mouse activity. Information processing happens at GA Central, but information collection can only happen onsite.

Is this happening in any random browser, or only in Chrome?

Some corollary experiments: Go to an URL that occurs on the original page, but this time type it in "cold" instead of copying and pasting. Go directly from your original page to an URL that doesn't occur on the page: either by typing it in, or by pasting-in from some other source.

aakk9999

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 9:52 pm on Nov 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think it could be a browser sending referer.

For example:

http://www.example.com/

Now in Firefox, if you highlight this unlinked citation and right click, Firefox gives you an an option to open this page. In this case, looking at the headers sent, Firefox sends the referrer information to be the page the citation is on (or in this case, the referrer sent is the URL of this thread).

Looking at the OP, I am not entirely sure I understand what was done there - was the URL pasted in the address bar the holding page or the unlinked URL or both, and in what sequence exactly.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 10:51 pm on Nov 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

You "create" the url when you use it.

I that point, it's likely that Google will find it, though generally the assumption is that they do it via public server logs. Not sure whether those logs would attribute the referrer to the pages that was open in the browser sending the referrer.

PS: I see that this is an analytics question, not really a Google search question, and that Google search really doesn't enter into it. It's direct navigation. I'd go with the page that was open in the browser as the assumption.

lucy24

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 2:02 am on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'd go with the page that was open in the browser as the assumption.

How would GA know? Is this something that can only work if the original page and the destination page both had GA code? And, if so, would the original page's own analytics list the new page as an outlink?

Going back and re-reading the original post: Are the two pages (the one containing the plain-text url and the destination page) on the same site? I'd originally read it as two entirely different domains, but now I see this is never stated, one way or the other.

JD_Toims

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Msg#: 4626891 posted 4:42 am on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

Quote Emphasis Added

In a little test I places a text url on a page and asked several co-workers to copy and paste the url to their browsers and visit the page. I watched them do it, the url was not a hyperlink and was not transformed into one by their computers.

That's definitely interesting, thanks for testing and sharing!

bluntforce

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 5:57 am on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

maybe I don't understand.

If a person has a page open on their browser, then uses some form of navigation(paste and go an url in the address bar).

Why wouldn't the new page consider that a referer?

If you had test subjects, copy the URL, close the browser, open a new browser and paste/go the URL. That should show as a direct entry rather than a referral.

lucy24

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 6:38 am on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

If a person has a page open on their browser, then uses some form of navigation

The whole point is that the user isn't using some "form of navigation".

If you click on an URL, the original page is shown as referer because your browser sends that information as part of its request. If you paste an URL into your browser's address bar, the new site shouldn't even know what page you came from. Your browser has no way of knowing that your clipboard's contents-- the source of the paste-- came from the page you're currently on, rather than, say, an e-mail or text file that you're concurrently reading in some entirely different program.

If you follow any forums that allow images, you will sooner or later see a blank space or even a "no hotlinks!" message. But if you manually copy the image URL and paste into your browser's address bar, the image will come through loud and clear. In fact that's how I first learned how a "referer" works. It has nothing to do with where you happen to be immediately before visiting the destination page.

bluntforce

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 6:46 am on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

The browser is on a page.
A link on that page, or something pasted into the address bar causes the browser to go to a new page.
Why wouldn't the new page analytics consider the previous page the referer?

JD_Toims

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 6:51 am on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

What Lucy24 said + I would be interested in seeing/knowing is if a URL pasted or typed into a browser what stats are recorded by most "stat systems", because right now, they seem accurate in a way faulty to me.

bluntforce

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 6:59 am on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

I don't see it as "What Lucy24 said".

I'm out of my area here, but there's a lot of history browsers record, knowing what page was visited previous to a new page visit doesn't seem out of line.

phranque

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 7:22 am on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

GA certainly could have the information and capability to maintain that session and call it a referral.
technically is not a referral as there would be no HTTP Referer header in the described scenario unless it was a browser bug.

[edited by: phranque at 8:03 am (utc) on Dec 1, 2013]

bluntforce

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 7:28 am on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

So, we come back to the original question.
Analytics reports these visits as referrals from the page containing the url anyway. How?

phranque

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 8:17 am on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

third party cookies that can maintain a session across pages and even domains

bluntforce

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 8:22 am on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks phranque.

Now I'll play with Piwik and see what can/cannot be reproduced.

lucy24

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 9:41 am on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

... something pasted into the address bar causes the browser to go to a new page.
Why wouldn't the new page analytics consider the previous page the referer?

Because that's not what a referer is. A "referer" is, specifically, the content of the "Referer" field in the request header. This content is sent by the browser.

A clicked link on a page: YES. That's a referer.

An image, script or stylesheet referenced by a page (whether or not the files are on the same domain): YES. That's a referer.

As HTTP currently works, there is no difference between the two.
<a href = "http://www.example.com/picname.jpg">
and
<img src = "http://www.example.com/picname.jpg">
look exactly the same to the server at example.com.

The page that you happen to have open in your browser's foremost tab when you type or paste an URL into the address bar: NO. That's not a referer.

If there existed a browser that gratuitously sent this information when the Referer field would otherwise be blank, people would know about it. And they would probably be up in arms.

aakk9999

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 1:48 pm on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

If you click on an URL, the original page is shown as referer because your browser sends that information as part of its request.

@Lucy, referrer is sent for unlinked URL by FF even if you cannot click on it directly. This happens when you highlight unlinked URL, right click and choose "Open link".

But I am still not clear what was in fact done in Sgt_Kickaxe's example.

In a little test I places a text url on a page and asked several co-workers to copy and paste the url to their browsers and visit the page. I watched them do it, the url was not a hyperlink and was not transformed into one by their computers.


Which URL? Is the URL copied and pasted the URL of the holding page or the Unlinked URL? If unlinked URL, where it was copied from - in which case it seems the step is missing: opening holding page in browser (presumably also by copy/paste link or typing in directly)

It could be just me because it seems that everybody assumes the following was done:

a) Opened the holding page in browser (the page that has unlinked URL)
b) Highlight unlinked URL on that holding page and copy it
c) Paste the copy of the unlinked URL to the browser address bar

@Sgt_Kickaxe, is the above exactly what was done by your work colleagues?

indyank

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 3:53 pm on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Lucy, referrer is sent for unlinked URL by FF even if you cannot click on it directly.


even chrome does it when you use "Go To <URL>" after highlighting the unlinked url and right clicking.

lucy24

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4626891 posted 10:58 pm on Dec 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

I consider that a click. The browser clearly detects that you have selected an URL, or it would never display the "go to..." message. And the important part is that you are going to the new page through browser action.

No matter what you select, Safari offers a "block this ad" option. Pessimistic or realistic? ;)

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