What Is Direct Traffic In Google Analytics

Google Analytics is one of the most powerful and useful tools that you can use for your website’s success.

If you know how to read the data that Google Analytics provides you, you will be able to use it to your advantage massively. 

What Is Direct Traffic In Google Analytics

One such useful facet of information that you can get from Google Analytics is direct traffic statistics.

You may have already taken a look at your Google Analytics and read direct traffic – at which point, you may have read “direct” or “none”. 

You may then be wondering to yourself, what exactly does this show me? What does this all mean?

Well, we’ve got the answers for you with this helpful guide. Read below for the answers! 

So, What Is Direct Traffic?

Typically, direct traffic is the results from a user who has typed in the URL directly into their browser to access your website.

It can also be as a result of someone bookmarking the site and clicking it – directly accessing the website. 

The more accurate definition of direct traffic though, is that it is a result of Google being unable to identify a source or “third party channel” to connect the user to the website. 

We can then separate direct traffic from other forms like referrals, social, organic, email and paid. Having said this though, direct traffic can also come from users reaching the website in the following different ways:

  • (Depending on email provider) clicking a link that is untagged 
  • Clicking a link within Microsoft Office or within a PDF document 
  • Clicking a URL that has been shortened (depending on the tool used)
  • Going from an unsecured site to a secured site which may appear as direct traffic 
  • Accessing a link via social media sites on mobile apps – this sometimes does not send referrer information
  • Browser trouble which inaccurately reports traffic as direct, despite being organic 

Taking all this into account, it’s clear to see that direct traffic can actually be from a number of sources.

Whilst it is impossible to 100% confirm the sources being direct traffic or not – there are things you can do to try to get it as accurate as possible.

Improving Direct Traffic Reporting Accuracy 

Tracking parameters are perhaps the best possible way to solve the correct allocation of direct traffic. Let’s give an example of a December email campaign, ready for Christmas sales. 

You can curtail the incorrect categorization of direct traffic by placing in parameters that solidify sessions from the December email campaign coming up as “xmas email” through Google Analytics. 

This is much simpler using Google’s URL builder tool.

The Process 

The Process 

You’ll need to start by typing in your URL into the first field. The rest of the information will relate to your specific campaign. So you could have from our example:

  • Source – newsletter 
  • Medium – email
  • Campaign – December 

Not only will this differentiate and improve the reporting of direct traffic, but it will also improve how well you read the stats of your campaign specifically. 

If you’re using a platform like MailChimp though, you can select an option for automatic parameters having tagged URLs.

This should be taken up as an option because you’ll be able to save time from tagging the URLs manually each time. 

However, manually tagging on a frequent basis will improve your chances of consistency and therefore have better campaign tracking. 

Using a URL builder tool can solve the problem of shortened URLs being reported as direct traffic too, so bear this in mind if you want to improve the accuracy of direct traffic reporting. 

Why Is This Data Important?

Getting direct traffic reports as accurate as possible is very important.

Not only does it allow you to use the data for your own strategies and future planning, but it is also critical if you want or need to pitch some of this data to prospective clients. 

If you need to pitch the information to a client, always try to remain as transparent as possible. Explain that the statistics do not necessarily mean that all users in the data were typing in your website’s URL to access it directly. 

While this may seem fruitless information, it can actually play a huge role in your future SEO campaigns – especially by showing that you may have received more organic traffic than Google Analytics may be showing. 

Being up front and proactive about your Google Analytics statistics is always going to be advised and the right thing to do. 

By explaining to your prospective client all of the potential traffic information, you are highlighting that you care about the accuracy of user behavior and therefore you are paying close attention to future planning.

Is Direct Traffic Indicative Of Strong Brand Strength?

Identifying how strong your brand is can be critical to business success, but sometimes it can be difficult to know how strong your brand strength is. One way that businesses can analyze this is using surveys. 

Often, surveys will ask participants to identify names, logos and mottos. The data that can be generated from this may be able to help businesses know how strong their brand is, but this can be time consuming and impractical. 

So, you could use direct traffic data to determine brand strength, but unfortunately it’s not always that simple due to the reasons we mentioned earlier (not all direct traffic is direct). 

Having said that though, if your data is as accurate as possible, you can take the information (lightly) and use this to give you an idea of the strength of your brand. 

The Bottom Line 

Direct traffic via Google Analytics can have invaluable data for you and your business success. However, understanding that not all direct traffic is specifically direct is important. 

Once you have followed some of the guidance above, you should be able to more effectively read the data and use it to your advantage.

Justin Shaw
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