For the Win Wednesdays 2 – Direct Traffic

Most of the time, direct traffic is pretty boring. In a perfect world, this should only show direct type-in traffic. Realistically, it’s influenced by a lot of other things that could be tracked like links in email signatures, email newsletters, offline print campaigns, flash or obfuscated advertisements on 3rd party websites, other weird links, or new changes in how Analytics tracks certain browsers.

Triggers: drastic change in direct traffic, direct traffic higher or lower than expected. Expect ~10%-20% of total traffic to be direct, more for companies that are heavy into traditional advertising, less for companies that sell online or don’t have a strong brand.

Tactic: Direct traffic won’t show information about the source, but sometimes you can deduce the source by analyzing where the traffic goes and what the visitors do. Check out what landing pages they hit, filtering for time ranges where you see more direct traffic, or even locations where the direct traffic is coming from to help diagnose what is causing it.

Example usage

Going back through Top Draw’s Analytics, I noticed two days where traffic was very odd: Oct 30-31, 2012. On those days, traffic was much higher than normal. Direct played a big part in that traffic spike.

direct traffic peak Oct 30

Filtering for the landing page on those two days, I can see that almost all of the traffic can be attributed to our “Alberta Searches 2012” infographic. I can also see that the visitors to that page were 98.86% new, great if the goal of the infographic was to increase awareness of Top Draw. I do remember that the infographic was featured on Breakfast Television Edmonton & Calgary, so there may have been some viewers of that program that converted to going to their phone or computer to read more. To verify that, I clicked on the landing page I wanted to analyze further, locking it in, and then selected “Operating System” from the Secondary Dimensions list.

secondary dimension

operating systems

Result? Holy cow, check out how many visits came from mobile phones! The “why” part is up for debate, but we have tracked down some really good attributes to our traffic and that’s going to help with insight into how to maximize campaign effectiveness.

Better Tracking the Un-trackable

Direct is a bit of a pain in the butt, because it hides where that traffic is actually coming from. To better track direct traffic:

  • Insist on direct links from 3rd party websites. No weird redirects, no click counters, and definitely no flash banner ads!
  • Configure your email newsletter system to include Google Analytics tags
  • Manually encode links using the URL builder for 1 time URLs, and the bulk URL editor for lots of them at once.

What are “For the Win Wednesdays”?

For the Win Wednesdays is a weekly series of posts tackling 1 technique or strategy of analysis in Google Analytics. These posts are created for intermediate users of Analytics, those who are familiar with the interface but are unsure about different application methods. For the full series, see the For the Win Wednesday tag.