Looking at Direct Traffic in Google Analytics

 In Digital Marketing

Direct traffic, commonly misinterpreted as bookmarked websites or familiar URLs, takes on a new meaning when you view your website’s traffic using Google Analytics. All of your website’s unrecognized traffic falls into a general category showing no clear referral paths. Factors affecting this direct traffic anomaly range from privacy and security settings, multiple devices, and app usage.

Without a more sophisticated understanding of Google Analytics, you lose sight of your “direct” audience that consists of valuable visitor behaviors and actions. Google Analytics strives to minimize the blinding impact of direct traffic by offering segmentation tools and tactics to analyze this mysterious traffic performance further. Through filtering, Google Analytics can reduce levels of direct traffic by producing valid data. By maintaining data for six months, tools present traffic in a more controlled manner. For example, when a visitor finds your website through a search and later returns, this visitor will be labeled “organic search referral” for six months. Let’s learn more about direct traffic and what it means for your business.

Factors Causing Direct Traffic

Direct traffic is incredibly frustrating. You clearly need more depth as you attempt to learn your audience and traffic sources, so the big question lingers: what prompted visitors to your site, which is then labeled as direct traffic?

  • Bookmarks or users’ typing behaviors – Visitors may have your website bookmarked and land with one click. Users may also begin typing and based on browser history; recommended websites may appear and result in direct traffic due to browser predictions. Analyzing frequent visitors’ behaviors holds great value to your business and brand. Based on users’ preferences and typing habits, referral paths may differ. Variations include https:, http:, www, or just the website name, affecting traffic analytics.
  • Incorrect Coding – Simple mistakes in codes happen. A lowercase letter instead of being capitalized or one code accidentally removed can be costly to your business. Really why? And what does that have to do with direct traffic?
  • Non-Indexed Documentation – Content, not visible in search results, does not show a correct referral source and creates direct traffic. Clicking links in apps, email software, such as Microsoft Outlook, or in PDF or Microsoft Word files, drives visitors to your site, but any non-indexed content does not clarify users’ behaviors and referral paths.
  • Campaign parameters – If you end up launching an email campaign or offer free PDF downloads upon subscription, you run the risk of missing controllable factors or introducing spamming agents to your website. By subscribing with a false, positive email address, spammers have access to your website. Spambots pose security risks, generate fake hits, and falsifies your referral traffic. But I thought we were talking about direct traffic?
  • Landing page redirection – Opting to bypass the landing page and redirecting URLs for visitors to engage with specific content can potentially create a 15% loss of link equity and SEO benefits according to Moz. Remove color and hyperlink link. Are you talking about 301 redirects??
  • Meta referrer tags – These may be misused in campaigns and cause direct traffic despite a different referral path.
  • Dark social – A phrase, invented by Alexis Madrigal, often gets misunderstood. When implementing social media advertising, one benefit often not accounted for involves users sharing content, a “virtual word of mouth.” Social sharing, mostly through apps, makes defining attributes challenging and traffic may fall into the direct traffic bucket. If a user sees an ad, they may share it on their profile, email it, or send it in a messaging app. Messaging apps have soared in usage (over 80%) compared to social media platforms. Sharing a business’ website and spreading the word may help you hit a jackpot audience without being aware.

Reducing Levels of Direct Traffic Using Google Tools

Now that you have a better understanding of the various misinterpretations of direct traffic, here are some remedies to put you on the path to gather better analytics on your visitors.

  • Make your site HTTPS – Enabling site security helps prevent miscomputed direct traffic and safeguards your website. SSL Certificates should be a priority. Check all referral channels to see that properties match HTTPS. Consistency helps businesses understand what exact referral source drives the site traffic. Keep in mind for SEO, that approximately 20% of the first page Google Search results have HTTPS.
  • Correct your coding – Google Analytics assigns one website property ID code to add to your website and offers auditing tools allowing you to track traffic. Ensuring implementation of correct coding prevents not only confusion but also self-referral sources.
  • Address non-indexed documentation – To fix any documents not indexed, the Google Search Console has an Index Coverage Status Report showing you the affected pages and suggests solutions.
  • Master the art of campaign tagging with meta referrer tags – Implementing UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) tags, available in the Google URL builder, adds technological advances and SEO marketing benefits. Meta Tags integrated into campaigns can help analyze referral traffic when inserted in into your website. You can predetermine the controllable factors by setting defined campaign parameters and tagging hyperlinks to track distributed content.
  • Managing landing page redirects – This must be done carefully and meticulously to acquire a proper knowledge of visitors’ behaviors and paths. Actively look for broken links within your website and make sure any redirects go to the correct page. Specific content should be configured with a 301 direct. If you run offline advertising, use a short, memorable URL in your campaigns, and visitors will arrive at a new landing page.
  • Track campaigns by shining a light on dark social – When running social media advertising, social sharing builds audiences and your campaigns on any platform need tracking. It would be best to become knowledgeable with demographics, industry, and referrals to expand your audience. Adding share buttons to any social media campaign provides invaluable information and assists in marketing success. Careful analysis of campaigns increases your visibility of targeted audiences by having the ability to see referral sources.

Why Analytics Is a Must for Your Business

Google Analytics’ tools can help you delve deeper into users’ demographics, behaviors, times, high performing platforms, allowing a clearer vision where website traffic originates. The list below is a rundown on some of the best practices to start with as you use Google Analytics.

  • Customized segments – In Google Analytics, businesses can define parameters of direct traffic. Segments include analyzing landing page, location, device, returning visitors, repeat purchase behaviors, and also enhanced e-commerce transactions.
  • Google Tag Manager (GTM) – Paired with Google Analytics, information from websites gets shared, allowing marketers to track and measure audiences. By using this free GTM tool, businesses can manage advertising campaign tags leading to better visibility. GTM provides data into direct visitors and content they view, creating more meaningful engagements for marketing teams.
  • Create customized traffic alerts – Google Analytics can send notifications when websites spike in direct traffic. By being aware of your site’s activity, this ensures campaigns’ consistency across platforms. By defining segments and improving tags, businesses can strategize better marketing efforts.
  • Flow reports – Knowledge gives businesses a better understanding of direct traffic conversions. Reports, such as Behavior Flow and Goal Flow, can be paired with segmentation and provide insight into further action to implement across the entire website.
  • Audience awareness and building long-term relationships – If you find yourself wanting more information beyond Google Analytics reports, offer your audience something in return to provide feedback. You can create a survey with a reward for those who complete it including a discount on their next purchase or offering a gift card. Building on connections, businesses can further offer more personalized content increasing engagement.

The Depth in Direct Traffic

Learning Google Analytics is the first step to understand direct traffic and its sources better. Once familiar with Google Analytics and its tools, looking at direct traffic will offer more profound insights into your website’s performance.

If you find yourself curious about direct traffic and want to know how to get started with Google Analytics, Premiere Creative would love to assist you! Contact the marketing experts at Premiere Creative to learn about traffic sources and segmentation or call us at (973) 346-8100 to get the most from advertising campaigns. We will see to it that Google Analytics performs for your business and help you achieve your goals.

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