How Google Analytics Handles Browser Bookmarks
by Geoff Hineman
In the past, you may have been told that clicks from a browser bar show up in Google Analytics as Direct Traffic. That, however, is not always the case.
Site Traffic from Bookmarks
While it is true that someone visiting your site from a bookmark is coming directly to your site, that does not make them Direct Traffic, per se. In actuality, someone coming to your site via a bookmark on their browser's toolbar will be counted by the last method they used to access your site before the bookmark click. Let's look at a couple of examples. Someone visits your site by clicking a listing in the Google Organic Results, then adds a bookmark to their browser toolbar. If that user's next visit to your site comes from clicking the bookmark, they would be considered Organic Traffic, because that is the last method they used to access your site before the bookmark. Here is where it gets a little tricky. If the same person who has set that bookmark then comes to your site by clicking a link on Facebook, before returning to your site via the bookmark again, the traffic will be attributed to Social (specifically Facebook, in this instance). Google Analytics stores this previous visit information for six months. If that same user comes back to the site after six months without having visited by any other path, Google Analytics will count it as Direct Traffic.
Conversion Data from Bookmarks
If you are one for really digging into your analytics, you should know that everything I just said goes right out the window when you look at Multi-Channel Funnel reports. In those reports, conversions that show the bookmark as the click that brought a user who converts will, indeed, be attributed to Direct Traffic. The rationale is that Google Analytics assumes, at the point of conversion, that the user's intent is to go directly to the site to convert. This is probably the best assumption given that we know users will rarely convert upon an initial visit, preferring to interact with a brand/organization several times (and often via several different channels) before converting. A bookmark click that leads to the conversion, however, shows clear intent that is most akin to a conversion that come from Direct Traffic.