Direct Website Traffic: Direct Traffic Definition and its Importance

In order to fully optimize your website and its content, it is important to understand what the different types of traffic sources are. There are four channels of website traffic, with direct traffic being a leading component for many websites. With direct website traffic being an indicator of brand awareness, webmasters should understand how to generate a direct visit, and engage with the direct visitor after they arrive at the website. Therefore, building a robust knowledge base of a user’s journey going from being an organic traffic viewer to a repeat direct traffic viewer will help better a company’s digital marketing efforts.

For a marketing campaign to be successful in the long run a website owner should develop a marketing channel to attract and retain direct traffic sources. This may sound complicated to do, but it is not! If you utilize the SEO tools and analytic tools at your disposal you can properly track and develop mechanisms to convert users into repeat website visitors. Looking at Google Analytics and looking at the referrer data of a visitor is a great place to start. However, to be successful in your digital marketing efforts you are going to need to have a solid marketing strategy which needs to include direct website traffic.

To help you generate more, and track your direct traffic better, have a look at the rest of this blog to learn exactly how to develop your direct traffic strategy!

What is Website Traffic:

Website traffic is defined as the users that visit a website. Traffic is broken into four main channels, and is measured in the number of sessions or visits on a website. Website traffic is measured over a certain period of time, and used to measure how successful a business is at attracting an audience. 

What is Direct Website Traffic – Direct Traffic Definition:

Direct traffic is a session that occurs when a visitor arrives at a website by directly entering the URL into the browser address bar.

In technical terms, Google Analytics defines direct traffic as a session when no information about the referral source is available, or when the referring source or search term has been configured to be ignored.

In other words, all though the direct traffic definition is well defined, there is also a gray area too. Whereas, direct traffic can be a catch call for all forms of website traffic, making it a combination of direct traffic SEO. If traffic sources get mixed, it can be difficult to allocate resources correctly to develop a good digital marketing strategy with your team.

Even if this happens, it is an easy fix as you can set parameters in your Google Analytics to separate your traffic sources better (more on this below!)

Is direct traffic good?

Yes! Direct traffic is good for your website and brand. It is a great indicator to how your audience and community is perceiving your brand.

When your direct traffic increases, it means more people are typing your URL into their browser bar directly, or are accessing the website through a bookmark. This is a good sign for your website, and brand as it shows that these people trust your website, and believe they can find the product, service or information they are looking for.

Without a doubt, having direct website traffic to your website is good. Just make sure to not get carried away before you check the Google Analytics (GA) data. As traffic sources can get mixed up, or have no referrer data attached to them, resulting in GA using direct traffic as a catch all.

A few examples of what is direct traffic can be seen below.

What are direct traffic examples?

Direct traffic is made up of sessions that take place on your website that were not referred by another source. Examples of direct website traffic include:

  • Entering a URL directly into the browser address bar
  • Using a bookmarked link to enter the website
  • Visitors that arrive at a website from documents that are offline, such as PDF, Word, Powerpoint, excel, etc.
  • Using a link that is in an application such as Outlook, Mail, etc.
  • Clicking a link from a text message or from a direct message 
  • A user clicks a link in a email that is from a third party.
  • A link with a ‘rel=noreferrer’ tag
  • Traffic from web browsers that don’t send referrer data

How to Increase Direct Traffic to my Website:

Direct traffic as a traffic source for your online business is a major component to the success of your business, and not only for the visitors. Whereas, an increase in direct traffic means that a website’s brand is growing, and gaining a larger audience. Which can contribute to more sales as well as to sending search engines positive signals about the performance of your website. Therefore, it is worthwhile to continue to work to increase your direct traffic.

In order to increase your website’s direct traffic you can include the following factors:

Build a Brand: 

By increasing your brand awareness and building a strong following, you will see an uptick in direct traffic. With a larger audience, they will be more likely to remember your website, and will enter it into their browser address bar more often.

In order to build your brand awareness, you can engage in the following:

  • Post on social media and interact with your audience
  • Promote your brand’s vision and mission to connect with your following
  • Have a unique brand name and statement
  • Have a recognizable logo 

Simple URL Structure: 

The URL structure of your website should be short and sweet. By making them easier to remember and more memorable your audience will be able to directly enter them more easily. Moreover, easy to remember URLs go back to branding and choosing your website’s name. If you set out from the beginning to establish your website with an easy to remember name and brand, it will make it easier to build direct traffic

Focus on Increasing Return Visitors: 

Return visitors are usually the leading source for direct website traffic. Return visitors are essential for your businesses revenue, as these visitors are already high quality leads. This is because they already trust in your brand, and believe that you can provide them with the information, product or service they are looking for.

Therefore, develop strategies that nurture and foster these visitors to continue to push them further into your sales funnel. To do this, ensure that you fully optimize your website, include call to action buttons, and to update the content regularly to keep it fresh.

You can also look to generate more direct traffic by engaging with your community as much as possible. This can be in the comment sections of your blog and on other forums are review sites that your website is listed on. It can also be from social media marketing.

I know, social media marketing is a different form of traffic, but think about it. The more you engage with your community, the more likely they will support your brand, and become a ‘brand ambassador’ of some sorts. This means they will recommend your website to friends and family, by handing out your website URL – and we used SEO best practices when picking a URL right? It’s easy and memorable… Right?

Offline Marketing Strategies:

A great way to increase direct traffic is to conduct offline marketing campaigns. By promoting your website through print advertising, coupons, business cards, brochures, meet and greets, conferences and hosting events. While using these methods, make sure to display your brand as well as your URL. 

How To Track Direct Traffic:

Knowing how to increase direct traffic, is only half the battle. You also need to know how to track direct traffic.

To track direct traffic, use Google Analytics. Depending on which Google Analytics you have set up, use  one of these two methods to access your data:  

  • If you’re using Universal Analytics, head to Acquisition » All Traffic » Channels.
  • If you’re using Google Analytics 4 (GA4), go to Acquisition » Traffic Acquisition

In your traffic section you will see a complete breakdown of the various traffic sources your website is getting. Moreover, in addition to the sources, it provides data on unique users, sessions, average time spent, number of engagements and so forth. 

Moreover, you can see direct traffic for individual pages as well. Providing you with an opportunity to understand what pages are getting the most direct traffic, as well as how potential pages are performing once the visitor lands on the page.

Google Analytics can provide valuable insights into your direct traffic source, as well as the finer details of the users and sessions. Monster Insights has a guide which can help you dive deeper into all the data Google Analytics has to offer.

How much direct traffic should I have

There is no specific amount of direct traffic a website should have. We believe that it depends on the type of website you have. 

For example, top brands that have a large following and are well known by their audience, can have around 50% of their traffic coming from direct traffic. As the audience is familiar with what the website offers in terms of information, products and services. You can consider this group to contain large retail stores, news agencies, or industry leaders like ESPN. 

On the other hand, if the website is smaller, with a less known brand, it may garnish around 20-25 percent of its total traffic. This may be because the website has a smaller following, or has just started.

If it is lower than 20-25 percent it is not an issue or a call for alarm as long as the other website traffic supplements traffic through other sources.

Issues with Direct Traffic Analytics:

Issues with direct traffic data comes form Google Analytics miss-categorizing the inbound traffic due to a lack of information to place it into the correct channel. Resulting in the direct traffic channel becoming a catch all for the traffic that Google can’t classify.

However, having the direct traffic source being higher than it should, could be problematic and misleading. This is because you may develop misinformed goals and objectives for your overall website strategy.

Therefore, it is important to know what is causing the misclassification to happen. We discuss four reasons why direct traffic analytics may be higher than it should be:

Four Reasons Why Direct Traffic Analytics Could be Wrong

Below are four of the most common reasons why you’re seeing a higher reported direct traffic than you actually have. In addition to these four reasons, you could also have other channels that have incorrect attributions, resulting in that data being classified in direct traffic.

Problems with tracking code

There could be an issue with the tracking codes on certain pages. This could include them being mislabeled as well as missing script all together. Another issue could be that automation tools being used could not be fully integrated or perhaps, not compatible with Google Analytics.

HTTPS – HTTP issues

When a user is transitioning between the two types of sites: HTTPS and HTTP, no referral data will be provided to Google Analytics. 

Therefore, if you have any HTTP existing pages on your website, make sure that all of your pages are updated and are HTTPS sites. This is good practice not only for tracking and analytics but also because the site will be more secure.

Let’s look at an example of HTTPS – HTTP Classification Issues:

You just wrote a great blog about the best travel locations in Oregon on your Https:// Now you want to link the article back to your website selling outdoor equipment on Http:// 

Now, your travel blog becomes successful and a great deal of traffic is clicking on your link to ‘Cool Outdoor Gear’, however since they have contradicting protocols, no data is getting passed on, and all of the traffic is being collected as direct traffic instead of referral.

This can be a huge issue as your referral traffic and direct traffic have different motivations and are different places along your sales funnel.

Dark Traffic, or Dark Social Traffic 

When traffic arrives on a website that can’t be placed into its correct channel, and it is not actually direct traffic, it is referred to as ‘dark’ traffic or ‘dark social’ traffic.

Dark traffic can be a significant contributor to the overall inflation in direct traffic data. Whereas, a study by Portent Analytics showed that the total percentage of direct traffic attributed to ‘dark traffic’ was:

  • Business to business (B2B) – 19.21% of total direct traffic was actually ‘dark traffic’
  • Business to customer (B2C) – 16.89% of total direct traffic was actually ‘dark traffic’
Dark Traffic contributes 19.21% of traffic to the direct traffic source
Dark Traffic contributes a considerable amount to Direct Traffic

However, “dark” does not necessarily mean “bad” traffic. It simply means that Google Analytics cannot track where the user came from when they arrived on your site. The reality is that there is a growing number of reasons for this. Some examples of sources that GA sometimes cannot track are:

  • Direct links in applications
  • Links found in text messages
  • Links in messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram
  • Incognito/secure browsing – Like Brave browser
  • Social platforms if tags are not properly attributed to the source
  • Bots

Non Web Documents

Offline documents that have embedded links do not pass any information regarding referrer, and thus get classified in the direct traffic category. Some of these documents can include:

  • PDFs
  • Microsoft 365 or Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
  • Google suite applications (Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides)
  • Iwork productivity suite (Apple products) applications (Pages, Numbers, Keynote)
  • Research papers 
  • Ebooks

This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, these are the four most common issues with incorrect direct traffic data. To gain more information on how to diagnose the issue, you can check out: Decoding Direct Traffic In Google Analytics.

The main takeaway of this section is that you should be aware of the issue of properly separating direct traffic from other website traffic channels. Therefore, make sure to go a little deeper when looking at your direct traffic channel data to understand how much is reliable.

Direct Traffic FAQs:

Knowing the various types of traffic channels is important, to making informed decisions when it comes to your website. Direct traffic is no different. However, it can be confusing at times to know all of the information regarding how it may or may not affect your website. Therefore, we have included the most common frequently asked questions regarding direct traffic:

Does Direct Traffic affect SEO?

Direct traffic does not directly affect your SEO score. However, it does influence the overall SEO profile of your website as the more popular your website is, the better chance you will have to improve your search engine optimization and Google ranking.

Direct Traffic can have an indirect impact on your website’s SEO by:

  • Providing more direct traffic means your website is more popular and trusted. This can lead to an increase in social media shares, comments and likes on your content.
  • Giving you more opportunities and chances to build backlinks
  • Decreases bounce rate and exit rate which are ranking factors
  • It will increase your interactions, click through rate, and time spent on your website (ranking factors)

Is direct traffic a ranking factor?

Direct traffic is not a ranking factor. That doesn’t mean it won’t have an indirect impact on your ranking. Whereas, more direct traffic can result in an increase in backlinks, comments, likes and a general increase of engagement on your site. 

As we know, all of these factors influence our ranking ability including our overall Domain Authority (DA). When search engines are ranking websites, they look at domain authority as an important component to how well the site is trusted and how it should be ranked.

Direct traffic is a sign of a strong following and audience, and when they type your link directly into the browser address bar, your website is demonstrating its authority. This means, anytime your community interacts with others online, they will be more likely to recommend your site as a thought leader in the industry. Which often results in some sort of interaction, either through link building, shares or citations.

Why is my direct traffic going down?

One of the most common reasons why your direct traffic is decreasing is because of broken links. If you have broken links that get redirected to another page, it will show up as direct traffic instead of referral.

Another potential reason your direct traffic could be going down is because of previous issues with properly classifying your traffic. If this is the reason, you can ask yourself or your team a few questions to find out:

  • Have you recently redone your analytics to that may be classifying ‘dark traffic better’?
  • Have you recently started excluding your team’s IP addresses from showing up as traffic?
  • Installed a monitoring application, or using a third party service party that helps track your traffic
  • Did you have traffic coming in from spam bots, and did you recently start excluding their locations?

What does direct traffic indicate?

If direct traffic numbers are accurate, then it indicates that you have a lot of people entering your site by directly entering your URL into their browser address bar. This usually means your website and brand have a strong community that trusts your services, products and information.

Why is my Direct Traffic so High?

There could be multiple reasons why your direct traffic is so high. These include both positive reasons as well as the collection of incorrect data.

Positive reasons for high direct traffic:

  • You have a strong brand and easily recognizable
  • The website’s audience trusts the website and believes it is a thought leader in its industry
  • Your offline marketing is working and driving traffic to your website
  •  People are sharing your website’s URL and information on social media or directly with people

Reasons why your data is incorrect:

  • Problems with tracking code are not working properly or are missing
  • HTTPS – HTTP issues leading to no information being passed on regarding the actual source
  • Dark Traffic, or Dark Social Traffic does not have information with them to classify them properly
  • Google Analytics is counting Non Web Documents links as direct traffic 
  • Browsers are using incognito or are secure browser like Brave that don’t provide traffic channel information

Takeaways – Direct Website Traffic

Direct traffic is one of four main sources of website traffic including referral traffic, paid search and paid traffic, as well as email marketing. Moreover, it is important to monitor all of the different traffic sources, and have a steady inflow from all sources.

Need more information on email marketing? Have a look at our marketing with email blogs: What is email marketing, Why is email marketing important, 5 Professional examples of business emails blogs and Email marketing statistics.

In terms of direct traffic, it can be a strong indicator of brand presence and how your audience perceives and trusts your business. Therefore, it is an important source of traffic to monitor and track during your digital marketing efforts. You should try your best as a company to develop ways to cater to direct website visitors, as you will want them to continue to come back and visit your site, as well as promote it. So make sure to use content marketing to develop relevant, high-quality, trustworthy content that they will love. And then, make sure to engage with them every time they interact with the content.

That being said, make sure that you analyze and segregate your data correctly as it can be misleading at times. Whereas, if the source is being used as a catch-all for traffic from Google Analytics, it may lead your team to spend resources in the wrong place. Therefore, it may be a good idea to take a deep dive into the data you have collected, and ensure that it is being classified correctly.

Visitors coming directly to your website are usually highly-motivated and considered to be high-quality as they already know and trust your brand. In order to continue to convert them into customers, ensure that you are optimizing your website and its call-to-actions, as well as keeping your content fresh. If you spend time catering to this traffic channel and developing mechanisms that engage them, you will be able to continue to make sales to them, and build a strong audience around your brand. 

If you require further assistance analyzing your website traffic sources, you can check out our blog that provides an overview of the four main sources of website traffic.

Clear Door SEO, a SEO company in Portland, Oregon also provides tailored SEO services including traffic analysis audits. If you are interested in getting more personalized help on your website, you can reach out to us, we would be happy to help!

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