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Is anyone else noticing over the last several years Google Analytics is attributing the source of traffic more and more to "unknown/direct?"

I looked back on our data and just a few years ago unknown/direct was 25-30% of traffic, now it's about 70%. It would make sense because the use of VPNs, privacy-focused browsers, and privacy-focused search engines has been on the rise.

Since I don't know where 2/3 of my visitors are coming from, it's possible 2/3 of sales from aren't being attributed to the correct source and the ROI of our marketing campaigns could be 3x what we are able to measure. If you're experiencing the same thing, how are you dealing with this when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of your various marketing campaigns (including SEO)?

And for those of you who provide SEO services, if "visitors from organic search" is one of the metrics you provide to your clients, how do you deal with the possibility that this may actually be 3x higher than measured?
 

Joey Abna

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I would think that the traffic coming in using a privacy browser or extension wouldn't show up in GA at all. I like to try and clean up as much of that "Ghost" traffic as I can. Often it comes from UTM parameters with a non standard medium setting. Have you looked into the secondary dimensions of your unknown traffic? Do you see any patterns like mobile, unexpected geos, operating systems etc.?
 

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