What Direct Traffic Really Is?
The more accurate definition of direct traffic is any visitor to your site who does not have their origin recorded. This means they clicked on a link or came from another website, but were not recorded by us because either: 1) The user didn’t add themselves as an affiliate; 2) Their browser fingerprint did not match what we cache.
Reasons why Direct Traffic may occur!
- Manual URL entry and bookmarks by frequent users
- Toggling from a secure link on an https web page to a non-secure HTTP webpage
- Missing or broken GA tracking code
- Incorrect/improper redirection
- Landing on a webpage from non-web documents like word documents, power points, excels, pdfs, etc.
- Dark Social – no attributed sources like email, Whatsapp, Skype, SMS, Facebook Messenger
Why wouldn’t Analytics have this information? Doesn’t it record everything?
Well, no, it does not . It records as much as it can, but there are some things it misses—and some things that just aren’t there. Here are some examples:
- HTTPS to HTTP: If someone comes to your site by clicking a link from an HTTPS site, that referral will not pass to your non-HTTPS site.
- Links included in email marketing campaigns that aren’t properly tagged
- Session refreshes
- QR Codes
- “Dark Social” links, such as links in chat or email
- Search and social referrers that fail to pass the proper referral string for example some studies suggest that up to 60% of direct traffic might actually be organic search traffic.
Anytime your Analytics program does not understand the referral string, or if there is not one, then it will lump your traffic in with direct. With mobile (search, device, apps) playing a bigger and bigger role, this could get even more complicated in the near future.
Solving the Direct Traffic Mystery!
So how can a person determine which visits are actually direct and which are not? Well, there is no foolproof way to do it, but people can gain some insight. One solution is to look at the landing pages for your direct traffic. If new visitors are landing on pages other than your home page, then it is pretty unlikely they came there directly. How often do you type www.sitename.com/products/widgets/cool-widgets/cool-blue-widgets.html to get to a page you have never visited before? And probably you have never done it before. And neither has anyone else. So how did they get there? This is a question you may never be able to figure out, and the amount of work it would take to gain even some insight may not be worth it.
As the push for all things secure continues, you may find less and less information passing through to your site. Since HTTPS is now a ranking signal in Google, more sites are starting to use it. This could mean more direct traffic for your HTTP site, depending on which sites are linking to you. A backlink audit can show you how many HTTPS sites are linking to your page, however it can not tell you how much traffic you are getting from those links.
With all this talk about how many people are visiting your site, it is easy to forget that there is much more than just raw traffic numbers. When you are in the business of marketing and advertising online, which most companies these days seem willing or eager enough to at least try their hand with, fluctuations can often be attributed to other factors like changes made by search engines themselves or even larger trends on Google’s end.
There are many ways to track marketing efforts and it is important for marketers because they want their money spent wisely. One way is by looking at traffic from different sources, such as direct or search engine results; this can give you insight into which channels are gaining popularity over time based on how often people visit them versus other less frequently searched-for avenues like social media sites where engagement is not always high unless there’s an event going around that week making anything pop up unexpectedly overnight. But knowing which types of searches bring people towards your site naturally means we do not need any external assistance finding out who our customers really are. Direct traffic might be impossible to track down, but it is still valuable. Spikes in your direct traffic can indicate your marketing efforts are working effectively. At the same time, drops in direct traffic do not necessarily mean your brand is fizzling out. It could just mean people are finding you using other means, meaning your analytics program is capable of detecting.
It is important to remember that analytics reports give us data, not answers. Use this data to make informed decisions about your marketing and website strategy. Whether the traffic is direct, referral, search, or other, use the data to help you move closer to your goals. After all, your website goal probably isn’t “Get X amount of direct visits to the site each month.” If it is, you may want to rethink more than just your marketing strategy.