Direct Traffic – What is it and Why Does it Matter?

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Updated January 3, 2018
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what is direct traffic and why does it matter

Direct Traffic – What is it and Why Does it Matter?


Bea Bonte

Bea is a brand and digital presence advocate. Working to grow visibility and loyalty through social media as well as assisting in the production of persuasive and functional websites. Lover of all things Real Housewives and Rosé.

what is direct traffic and why does it matter

Getting traffic to your website is arguably the hardest part about being a digital marketer, but it’s the lifeblood of your business, and that means that it’s vital to your success. Ideally, you should use an analytics platform like Google Analytics so that you can track your progress and success; these programs will show you where the traffic comes from and in what quantity.

Within Google Analytics you might notice that you have a notable amount of direct traffic, but what exactly is direct traffic?

What is Direct Traffic?

Direct traffic is essentially visitors that come to your website without a referral source which means that your analytics program doesn’t know where the visitors come from. Many amateur digital marketers might naively believe that direct traffic is when visitors type in your URL, but that’s just one form out of a few.

Direct Traffic

Typed URL

If you’re running offline marketing campaigns or have a strong brand, then you might get a significant amount of direct traffic in the form of typed URLs. This traffic occurs when people go to their web browsers and type in your website address rather than clicking onto a link to get to your site.

These visitors will appear as direct traffic in your analytics platform because the analytics program can’t find any referral source. This is because they didn’t come from another website, they came straight to your site.

Determining exactly why these people typed in your website address is virtually impossible, but you might be able to cross-reference it with your offline marketing campaigns. Doing this can give you more information about which are the most successful and have the most significant impact, but beyond this, your analysis will be limited.

Referral Data Not Passed

The second type of direct traffic is when visitors come from a source, but no referral data is passed to your analytics platform for some reason. One example of this would be when an HTTPS website refers a visitor to a site that is HTTP, i.e., it is not secured.

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For this reason, the secured site refers to transfer referral data to the insecure website, thereby making it impossible for you to know which place they came from.

Another common reason for referral data to not be passed to your website is because the visitors are coming from a different link that is not on a site. These links could be in documents like Word, Excel and PDF’s, or they could also be coming from apps which rarely pass referral data.

If your business is regularly sending out documents like proposals or reviews, then this traffic can represent a considerable percentage of all of your direct traffic. Again, assessing the source of these visitors can be difficult unless you tag all of your links so that you can see where people are coming from.

Finally, if you have 301 or 302 redirects, then you can open lose the Javascript tags which would help to transfer referral data. In this case, it’s common for you to see traffic coming through redirects as direct traffic when it might have come from the search engine or social media.

Direct Traffic Converts

Why does direct traffic matter? Well, it tends to convert at a much higher percentage than other types of visitors. The reason for this is likely to be that these visitors have already had contact with your website and therefore there is less resistance for them to purchase.

For this exact reason, omnichannel marketing strategies are incredibly powerful, magnifying the performance of each of your channels of traffic.

Most Direct Traffic Should Be Avoided

However, the vast majority of direct traffic should be avoided. The reason for this is because for most businesses the percentage of direct traffic that comes from typing in URL’s is relatively low, instead, the majority is from untagged visitors that have no referral data.

This traffic should ideally be tagged so that you can see where it’s coming from. Having this extra data helps you to make better marketing decisions so that you can improve your strategies and generate a far higher return on investment.

In most cases, the best way to do this is to use a platform like Google Analytics to tag all of your links separately so that you can identify the sources of traffic. Of course, this is time-consuming, but it’s often the only way to learn where your customers are coming from so you can assess the ROI of your marketing channels.

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Bea Bonte

Bea is a brand and digital presence advocate. Working to grow visibility and loyalty through social media as well as assisting in the production of persuasive and functional websites. Lover of all things Real Housewives and Rosé.

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