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long term change in direct traffic, overnight

direct traffic sudden and lasting drop

5:20 pm on Aug 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I have been trying to figure something out for a while..
My direct traffic has been down double digits in a very consequent way for a while. It is down in actual visitors TY/LY and down in percentage total visits. This is the single biggest drop currently in my traffic.

I have started poking around a little more and while I knew there was a specific time frame this started happening, I am actually showing a specific day when this trend started, overnight. It is quite obvious visually in the GA stats.

before september 22nd (2011), i was up to LY in actual direct traffic number in double digits. Overnight, the trend switched over and starting from september 22nd 2011, I am down double digits in direct traffic to LY.

So question for you guys:
1/ Was there any specific update that could have caused the direct traffic to show in the wrong "bucket" in GA?
2/ I am not finding a clear place where the direct traffic might have gone.. Is there anything I am missing or a way to identify the issue?

I was originally suspecting that simply we had more competition or else and lost direct traffic. But this hypothesis does not seem plausible with such an overnight drastic change.
9:13 pm on Aug 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

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One possibility: you may have somebody who has been referrng a lot of traffic to you but has, until recently, had the links programmed to open your site in a new browser window. This shows as "no referrer" or what is called "direct traffic" (a mislabel). If they've changed the links so that a referrer shows up, you'll get a drop in "direct" but an increase in their site as referrer.

So, question is, did any referrers suddenly pop?

p.s. Look up an article on what "direct traffic" really means in analytics and all the reasons a hit can have no known referrer. It will explain a lot.