New users landing on your ‘thankyou’ page from Organic or Adwords?

Here's a little riddle for those of you who are tech savvy and know their way around Google Analytics. December 2014 I spoke with the CEO of an agency who told me he was seeing new visits directly landing on his clients thankyou pages.

There are a few cases where this could happen:

  1. People try to order a product, go to their banks' site, wait for more than 30 minutes causing the Google Analytics session to end, pay and return to your site. This will generate a landing on a thankyou page, but from a returning visitor in stead of a new one.
  2. People have software in place that erases any cookies from a site as soon as people leave them. After returning back from the payment provider they will be seen as a new visitor, but with the source "direct / none" or "bankdomain.tld / referral". So not as "google / organic" or "google / cpc".

Take a look at this screenshot:


How on earth is this possible. It looks like people land directly from the Google search results onto the thankyou page. The facts:

  • The thankyou page is not indexed in Google.
  • All 10 of those visitors generated an ecommerce transaction, so they where real visitors.
  • If their cookies where lost or reset their source would be "direct", so they must have been on the site before.
  • I also analyzed date ranges with less than 500k sessions, that will rule out sampling.

According to this table people searched in Google, landed on the thankyou page and immediately purchased a product. Although that would be nice if you own a webshop 😉 it's not right.

Who can shed some light upon this? It seems like there was an update on Google's side, in December I could generate more examples than I could this morning...? Do you see the same strange data when you search for your thankyou page in the Landingpage report?

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  • Markus

    Could there be some pages with no (or a different) code before the Transaktion be a possible explaination?

    • In that case sometimes a cookie reset will happen. But than the source of the visitor would be "direct", and not "organic".

  • Erik Altink

    Hi Andre,

    This has to do with the fact that Google analytics removes the referral when the visitor goes to a payment website.

    Add the payment website to the ignored domains.

    See also (dutch):


    • Erik Altink

      The correct term is "Referral exclusion" (sorry for the possible mixup after my last reply).

      Google Universal Analytics starts a new session when a visitor is referred by another website. So if the visitor is on your website, goes to a payment portal en returns, Universal sees this as a referral and starts a new session. Therefor it looks like someone landed on your 'thankyou' page.

      Google answers this issue here:

      The dutch article has a link to a Google Docs Spreadsheet with 250+ possible referring pages that might cause this behavior when they are used as a PSP:

      • Erik, that's correct, I also gave this as a possibility. But in that case the visitor will be counted as a returning visitor and not as a new visitor. This 'new visitor' count is what I can't explain.

  • Béate Vervaecke

    They click the confirmation mail for the order (no utm-tagging?) from a device they didn't use for ordering?

    • Then "direct" would be the source, and not "organic" or any other source.

      • Guest

        Unless they used that device before, to come to the site via organic? Nopes, no new user then.

      • Béate Vervaecke

        4,5 million sessions? I think it's a measurement mistake

        • I think it's has something to do with the data processing on Google's side, otherwise I can't explain it.