Complete Guide to Direct Traffic in Google Analytics

Complete Guide to Direct Traffic in Google Analytics

What Is Direct Traffic and How Does It Differ from Direct Search?

Direct traffic is defined as visitors who entered your site address in the browser search window or entered the saved tab. You’ll be very surprised to find out what direct traffic is for Google Analytics.

Direct traffic does not differ from the direct search. It’s the same thing. Therefore, the definition of direct search is the same as direct traffic.

Direct Search 50%. Am I Really So Famous

You went to your website and saw high direct traffic to Google analytics. If it is below 20%, everything is fine. If it is not, you should figure out why.

Perhaps most users know your site well and visit directly. However, you are not Amazon, and therefore you probably encountered a problem when Google counts any other traffic that could not be identified as direct traffic.

What is Google Analytics Direct Traffic?

As you already understood, Google Analytics often takes direct traffic from sessions that cannot be attributed to anything other than direct search.

Google Analytics processes the traffic source according to this scenario:

  1. Reads Google Adwords or DoubleClick tags.
  2. Checks UTM tags that are added to the URL in order to transmit GA information about the source of traffic
  3. Searches for the source of the request
  4. Tries to recognize the user by userID or clientID

If a user is identified by GA for any item, the system will determine the source of the traffic, or the user will get direct traffic to Google Analytics.

So, let’s figure out why your direct site traffic increases and how to manage it correctly.

Reasons For Direct Traffic Growth

1. Manual Site Address Entry

This is how direct traffic should traditionally appear on the site.

But hey, not too fast! It is likely that you and/or your employees visit the site often. You definitely do not need this data in GA, so you need to exclude your domain from statistics. To do this, go to Settings – Administrator – Filters – Add Filter, and then enter the IP address that you want to exclude from the analytics.

2. Tracking Code Error

If the Google Analytics tracking code is broken or missing, there will be an unreasonable increase in direct traffic. After the user gets to the page with and without the defective trigger, Google Analytics will only count visits to the second pages and the ones that come after. At the same time, if your IP address is added to excluded, this analytics source will be displayed as direct.

To fix this error, copy again and add the Google Analytics tracking code on each page of the site or put a special plug-in in the admin panel of the site. If the site is on Open Cart, go to Extensions – Analytics and add the code there. Everything should now work correctly.

3. Direct vs Organic

If site visitors use the Internet Explorer browser when they search by key, your site’s direct traffic may grow instead of organic traffic. Let’s see what is the difference between direct and organic traffic.

Organic traffic is a traffic channel where users search for information in a search engine and go to your site. The higher the organic traffic, the better the SEO optimization of the resource, and the lower the advertising costs. Groupon SEO experts conducted an experiment that showed that up to 75% of organic traffic is mistakenly counted as direct when switching to a site from IE. Other browsers have up to 10-20%. Later on, we will take a look at how to fix this problem.

4. Dark Social

Dark social traffic is almost impossible to track. This includes referrals from Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Skype, e-mail, and others. It is almost impossible to cope with this to 100%, but the situation can be improved a bit. To do this, it is necessary to create a new segment of users in analytics that count as direct.

To do this, go to Settings – Administrator – Segments – Traffic Source – Source – (direct) – then enter the segment name and save it.

Afterward, you need to filter out users who come across the main page from well-remembered URLs.

Behavior – Site Content – All Pages – More – Excluded – Page Contains – URL – Apply.

You can also reduce dark traffic using UTM parameters (URL builder). They can be created using the Campaign URL Builder.

5. Visits by Bots

They spend on the site from 0 to 2 seconds, while giving a high failure rate. They also do not make transactions.

It is impossible to view the IP addresses of bots in Google Analytics. You just have to catch them on the server and add them to the list of excluded ones.

6. Code Errors

If the noreferrer tag is present in the code or errors lead to the updates of cookies, traffic can be counted as direct.

7. Direct and Referral Traffic

Referral traffic is the transitions of visitors to your site from other resources where links to it can be found.

Sometimes Google Analytics mistake it for direct traffic.

If you started using the SSL protocol (Secure Sockets Layer, HTTPS, security certificate) on your site, then part of the links on partner sites will lead to HTTP. Clicks from them will be recorded not as referral traffic, but as direct traffic.

You can solve this problem by working with the referrer meta tag.

HTTP Referer is the header of the search request. It contains the URL of the login page and allows the server to find out where the visitor came from.

If a user clicks on a link from a Word, Open Office, PDF, or another document, traffic is recorded as direct. This situation cannot be corrected.

But if Referer was not transmitted due to the fact that UTM tags or HTTP headers were not transmitted, it is not a problem to fix it. This was already described how above. This error often occurs when a user follows a link that was written out slightly incorrectly. 

Additionally, if you are not using SSL, and your user goes from a protected resource, the traffic source can be registered as direct because the referral data is not transmitted. This happens if your partner switched to the SSL security certificate and forbade the transfer of referral data when switching to HTTP.

If you saw that your direct traffic has sharply increased and your referral has fallen, then that is the problem. The easiest way to solve it is to install an SSL certificate or edit backlinks by adding HTTPS to them. Read more in the article HTTPS vs. HTTP.

I Do Not Have Direct Traffic. Is This Good or Bad

The lack of direct traffic indicates that you are not using social sharing tools, or your users do not access the site through direct search. This happens very rarely. We’ll look into this matter further in the article.

Advantages and disadvantages of direct traffic

  1. It shows the degree of popularity of the resource among users.
  2. If the site has high direct traffic, then Google will increase its ranking. Therefore, there will be more clicks through organic search.
  3. Referral, email, and social, are often mistakenly considered direct traffic which prevents marketers and resource owners from evaluating the effectiveness of traffic sources.

Where does my site traffic come from and how to track it

We have already figured out where the direct source Google Analytics traffic comes from, and we have differentiated referral and organic. Besides these lists of traffic channels, there are also: Display, Social, Paid Search, E-mail, Affiliates, and others.

Display – transitions from advertising on the Display Network.

Social – traffic from social networks.

Paid Search – Referrals from paid Google Adwords ads.

E-mail – clicks on links from mailing lists.

Affiliates – Google defines traffic as an affiliate when one company sends another traffic in the hope that it will bring the conversion which the partner site pays the referrer for.

Other – another source of advertising.

To find out the sources of traffic, go to GA in Traffic Sources – Channels.

If you need a direct list of channels, then go to the Source/channel section.

(direct) / (none) Google Analytics – This is our direct traffic. We also see links to other resources.

If you want to analyze the data in more detail, you will need the full referrer URL.

How to Get the Full URL From a Regular Traffic Referrer

  • Go to Channels – Referral – Click on the channel of interest – Get the full link.

  • Go to Special reports – My reports – Add a report – Metric Groups (Sessions, Bounce Rate, Goals, Revenue) – Dimension Drilldown (Full URL of transition) – Filters (Traffic type – Exact match of referral) – Save.

I Want More Transitions. How to Direct Traffic to My Website

So, let’s look at how to increase the amount of traffic to the website.

1. Direct Traffic

To increase direct traffic, you will need to increase company recognition. Advertising on billboards, on TV and in the media, branded vehicles, advertising with a blogger, videos on Youtube, Tik Tok, and messengers are all suitable for this. The main thing to focus on is to be seen more often.

2. Social Traffic

Create an account on Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, LinkedIn, or Instagram and make posts with links to the site. Create ads with the goal of Traffic or Clicks. This will increase social traffic.

3. Organic Traffic

  • Conduct a site audit. You can use Semrush, SEOptimer, and other audit services. They will allow you to see the errors on the site that prevent you from promoting the site to the top, evaluate the sufficiency of the link mass, the position of the site in the search results, and get an overall rating of the site. They will also check the effectiveness of the optimization. Read more – SEO Report.

  • This performs SEO optimization and adds keywords, internal, and external links. For more information check out this articl – What is SEO
  • This increases website speed. You can check it using the service from Google PageSpeed Insights. It will also show the reasons for the slow loading.

By doing all that, you will increase the flow of SEO traffic.

4. Paid Search

Run paid ads on Google Adwords. Read the related article – SEO vs. PPC.

5. Display

Set up Display Network ads through Google Ads. To increase conversions on this traffic channel, pay attention to the audience.

6. Referral

Take advantage of referral and affiliate programs of donor sites or resources with a good WOT (Web Of Trust – site reputation). We do not recommend buying links of poor quality.

We hope this guide will help improve your site’s traffic metrics in the future.

About author
Anna is engaged in the development of a comprehensive strategy for promoting a company on the Internet: from working out the concept of a company's branding to creating a website and launching advertising campaigns in Ads, Facebook, Instagram.