Have you ever been scrolling through the Acquisition section of Google Analytics and weren’t exactly sure what each of the channels are? Guesses are, direct traffic is one of the top ways users are getting to your website. There are a lot of misconceptions about direct traffic, including it jus beni users directly typing your URL into their browser or clicking on your bookmarked page. By understanding direct traffic fully, you’ll be able to reduce the traffic to your website that are coming from direct sources in addition to learning about the most valuable users to your website.
What is Direct Traffic?
Google Analytics groups the traffic to your website into five differet categories: organic search, direct, email, referral, and social. Traffic will fall into the “direct” category if there is no data on how the traffic arrived at your website or if the referring source was configured to be ignored.
What Causes Direct Traffic?
There are numerous causes for direct traffic but the most common are:
1. Manual URL Input & Bookmarked Addresses
Remember when we talked about the misconceptions about direct traffic above? Most individuals believe that direct traffic is people specifically typing the URL to their website into the browser or accessing it through a bookmark. Although this is one of the causes of direct traffic, it’s not the only one!
2. HTTPS to HTTP
If a user is on a secure site and follws a link to a non-secure site, the refferer data won’t be passed along. This was designed with intent and doesn’t affect the following scenarios: HTTP to HTTP, HTTPS to HTTPS, and HTTP to HTTPS. If you have noticed your direct traffic has drastically increased and referral traffic as decreased, this could be because the referrer migrated to HTTPS while you’re still HTTP. By simply migrating to HTTPS, you’ll see a decrease in direct traffic as well an increase in rankings since having an SSL Certificate installed on your website is an important ranking factor.
3. Missing or Broken Tracking Code
If you are missing or have a broken tracking code on one page of your website and the remaining pages of your website, it can cause a mix up with the sessions to your website as well as self-referral traffic. If a user lands on a page where the tracking code is missing/broken, then moves on to another page on your website, Google Analytics will count the second page as the landing page and will be counted as referral traffic from your own website. If you notice this, simply adding your tracking code to the page will solve the problem.
4. Improper Redirection
It’s important to keep an eye on the redirections that are in place on your webite and use 301-redirects whenever possible to reduce direct traffic.
5. “Dark” Social Media
Traffic to your website from social media is categorized into “social” but traffic that comes from “dark” social media – meaning Facebook messanger, Skype, personal emails, and instant messaging applications – will be categorized into direct traffic.
How To Minimize Direct Traffic
There is no easy fix to minimizing direct traffic but by implementing the following tips, you’ll be able to minimize direct traffic over time:
1. Add social media sharing buttons to your blog posts and pages to help reduce the amount of traffic being categorized into “direct traffic” from “dark” social media
2. Migrate your websit to HTTPS to reduce the amount of direct traffic from referral sources
3. Utilize 301-redirects to avoid client-side redirection