Have you noticed a dip in your Google Analytics referrals? Are websites that were once bringing you traffic seemingly no longer bringing you traffic, even though there have been no noticable changes?
If your answer is “yes” to these questions, then you are likely suffering a https to http reporting issue.
Let us explain. Over the past 2-3 years, websites have been updating to secure https websites at an unprecedented pace. This is for a number of reasons. including user security, Google search ranking benefits, and quality control. You probably know this, because your site is likely https now, too (if it’s not, it really should be).
Now enter a fun fact: By default, Google Analytics doesn’t report referrals from https websites to http websites under trackable Referrals. Instead, this data gets lumped together as generic Direct traffic.
So, if one of the websites that sends traffic to your website updates itself from http to https, and your site is http, you will see a sharp drop in Referrals (and likely a boost in Direct traffic).
“But my site is https, and I’m also seeing a drop,” you may be saying to yourself right now. If that is the case, then the culprit is likely an outdated link on the referring website to your website. In other words, if the link on the referring site links to your https website without using the https prefix, and, instead, uses a link that is just http, then those referrals will fall into the same https to http Google Analytics referral dead zone that http websites are stuck in.
Example. https://welovewineries.com links to your website, https://bestwineryintheworld.com, but uses a link http://bestwineryintheworld.com, Google analytics will not treat that as a referral.
We’ve spent the past couple of days tracking URLs on many winery listing websites where we have seen drops in performance to our client sites, and it seems most of them are linking to members via these outdated http urls, meaning a lot of wineries aren’t getting solid Google Analytics tracking data from these sites. (Please do keep in mind, most of these sites depend on members updating their own information).
So, if you are part of an association (or many associations) and you depend on referrals from that association (or many associations) then check to make sure the links to your website from these sites are up to date. If they are not, update them. Once you do this, you will start seeing those referrals come to life in Google Analytics, and you can celebrate your ability to track your referrals once again.
Read more about this topic:
2018 Is the Year Google HTTPS Ranking Got Real
In Depth HTTP to HTTPS Migration Guide for WordPress