Google Analytics Unknown Direct Traffic Domain Redirect with UTM Tracking

Unknown Direct Traffic Domain Redirect with UTM Tracking

What can you do to better understand where your direct traffic comes from? In this video, we discuss one technique: setting up trackable domain redirects. This can help you understand the value of things like offline advertising, media, social, and more.


In this video we’re going to talk about one of the harder problems to solve in Google Analytics, unknown direct traffic. In nearly every Google Analytics account a lot of traffic is labeled as direct. While that mostly means people directly typed your URL in to their browser we want to know more. The biggest question we want to know is what led people to type in your URL in the first place. Let’s go through some examples of campaigns that are often misattributed to direct traffic.

One common area for this is any kind of offline marketing. You might do a radio interview where you mention your websites address. You might mail out brochures. You might hand out your business cards. All of those might lead people, hopefully will lead people, to type your URL into their browser. Even online, there’s some online advertising that doesn’t come with a click. A podcast interview, some kinds of display adds, and even some kinds of social networking fall into this category. We want to be able to track these instead of having these non-click online marketing sources end up labeled as direct traffic. You might also have other domain names for your business.

One of the ways that we can solve these problems is with domain redirects. Let’s go through a specific example of how a domain redirect can help. So I wrote a book and there’s a page on my website that talks all about this book but when I do interviews about the book I don’t want to give people this because that’s a mouthful to say. It’s also quite a lot to put on an ad. So instead we can use a friendlier address, such as and that friendly address can redirect over to the but when people type in I want to know about it. I don’t want those people to just be labeled as direct traffic, I want to know that those people came in as a result of typing in this friendly URL that way I better understand if the marketing I’m doing to promote my book is actually working.

As another example at Elementive, our official company name is Elementive Marketing Solutions. Some people type in our URL as other people type in our URL as and still others type it in as Regardless of how they typed that in we want them all to end up on our website and while we can redirect those URLs what we’re really going after in this video is we want to be able to attribute that person’s visit back to the actual URL they typed in. Setting up a domain redirect breaks down into three steps.

The first step is we need to get a trackable URL. Now if you haven’t seen our other video on now to set-up UTM tracking to work with Google Analytics go check that video out now. It’s linked to down in the description. In order to set up the trackable URL for our domain redirect we’re going to start by putting in the website URL we’re redirecting to. In the case of my book that’s the page on my website that talks about the book. We can then put in a campaign source, in this case we’re going to use the domain that’s being redirected as the campaign source. So Campaign medium offers us a way to group all the different sources and so we want to put in the campaign medium of domain_redirect. We can then also give this a campaign name, in this case we can use promo_book. We’ll then copy the generated URL and then we can put that in as our redirect destination.

That leads us to step two which is actually setting up the domain redirect. Now how you setup the redirect will differ depending on where your domain is hosted or registered. In my case my domain is registered with GoDaddy. So in GoDaddy under DNS Management I can select the domain and then scroll down to the domain forwarding area and add a new domain forwarder. In the forward to box I’ll put in the URL that we just created with the UTM tracking parameters. And then I’ll click save. Now that it’s saved I can scroll back down and the domain forwarding is in place with that long URL. To test this I can hop over to a new browser and type in, which will then redirect me to the page on my website talking about my book. Now, when anybody types in and is redirected over to my website, instead of that showing up as direct traffic, which is mysterious and unknown I now know something about where those people came from and why they came to my website. I also know some thing more about how all the work I’m doing to market and promote my book is actually working.

The last step is to check the reports in Google Analytics. So we can go to real-time, check out traffic sources and under traffic sources we can see that the medium is in there, domain_redirect, and the source is

If you have any questions about setting up domain redirects using UTM tracking or anything else to do with Analytics, please contact me.