Direct Traffic Spikes in Google Analytics And What They Mean

What is Direct Traffic?

Have you ever seen a random spike in direct traffic in Google Analytics, but you don’t understand what it means? A few things can cause it, but it is important to understand direct traffic and how it differs from other traffic sources. Direct traffic is getting to a site directly, and the ways below can do it:

  • Entering a URL into the browser
  • Clicking on a bookmark in the browser
  • Improper setup of email marketing
  • Organic traffic counting as direct traffic
  • Non-web documents
  • Poorly implemented redirects
  • Wrong set up of Google Analytics tracking code
  • And many other scenarios

Direct Traffic is similar to paid, organic, referral, social, and email traffic because they can be made up of various sources. But it differs from them because it is hard to group those sources. Direct traffic is due to an array of drastically different sources, and it can be hard to group and make sense of them. 

How to Interpret Direct Traffic Spikes

Due to its dramatically different sources, the best way to interpret direct traffic spikes is to go to Google Analytics and look at all the different pieces of information. Google Analytics provides tons of information beyond the different channel groupings. By opening up Google Analytics and clicking the Acquisition tab, then the channels tab, we can better visualize the direct traffic on that specific date. When interpreting what caused the spike and how to look out for them in the future, there are a few things to look out for.

1. When did this direct traffic spike occur?

Many spikes occur on just one day and typically are during odd hours of the day, like 3 or 4 AM. These can be correlated to bot traffic, as it is usually unusual to have that much traffic during sleeping hours. In other cases, it is important to remember that day and if anything special occurred. Sometimes if a business was mentioned in the press or created a new commercial or advertisement, it could cause a spike in traffic. Another cause would be making significant changes to the website or sending an email to clients, causing a substantial spike in traffic.

2. What page did users land on?

After figuring out the day the spike occurred, it is crucial to see which page they landed on. Did users land on the homepage, or was it a blog or article post? Figuring out which page they landed on can help you better understand the direct traffic type. For example, many direct bot traffic spikes to land on the home page and have very high bounce rates with low session time. A spike that could be caused by the press or about a popular topic or article may land on the blog post page. Once we get a better understanding of which page users landed on, it can help us understand which type of direct traffic caused it.

3. Where are the users located?

Another important thing to look for is to see where the users are located that caused the direct traffic spike. If most users are in the same area, it could mean they all shared the same link to get to the site. The geography of the users will also help us better rule out whether bot traffic is involved.

4. What device did users use?

When looking at the traffic, it is a good idea to see the type of device the users used to land on your site. If a majority of users used a similar device, it could help you get a better understanding of why they landed on your website. For example, if almost all of the users from that spike used their mobile phones, it can help narrow down more about those users.

Once the data from above is calculated, it can help you better understand the users and what they are trying to achieve. This information can tell us a little about who they are, their location, and what they were looking for on our site. 

Contact Boston Web Marketing

For help understanding and determining direct traffic spikes, turn to the professionals! At Boston Web Marketing, we work with different industries all over Boston and the surrounding areas to help improve their organic ranking. If you need help with increasing traffic to your website or want to get a better idea of the users who are landing on your site, give us a call today at 857-526-0096

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