Google Organic Traffic Miscategorized as Direct?


I have been running Piwik Pro side-by-side with GA3 for a couple of days now for ( Yesterday was the first day of complete data. Both platforms were pretty close in the total sessions count, but Piwik’s distribution among the mediums/channels is wildly different from GA3. Here’s direct versus organic breakdown (direct/organic) for all both for the same 24 hours:

GA3: 8/48
Piwik: 18/35

In taking a look at the Organic sources in Piwik, the difference in visits from search engines tells an interesting tale:

google - 26
google my business (landing page is decorated with UTM codes) - 18
yahoo - 3
duckduckgo - 1

google - 19
google my business (landing page is decorated with UTM codes) - 11
baidu - 2 (this likely shows because the GA3 view has a “USA only” filter)
yahoo - 2
duckduckgo - 1

It seems to be that Piwik is categorizing some Google Organic visits as Direct.

For additional comparison, Plausible has the following distribution for direct/organic so it’s even less aligned with GA3:

Plausible: 45/16

Hi @David_Culbertson. I’m currently conducting a small research that aims to document the differences between web analytics products. I’ll contact you via private message to share details. I’ll try to help you understanding that’s the reason behind the discrepancies.

Just adding here a note from our private conversation. GA3 will almost always underreport direct entries, since it has something called “campaign timeout”. So, whenever there is a returning visitor and the previous session for this visitor wasn’t direct entry, the aquisition channel (including all dimensions set via utm tags) is copied to the new session. Related article: Deep Dive into Google Analytics’ Campaign Timeout Setting | by Jennifer Li | Medium

Thanks for all of the info, Kuba. Based on your insights, I’m OK with the slight differences that I’m seeing. Now, I need to create a channel for paid search so I’ve got a closer channel match to GA3.