Direct traffic is defined as visits with no referring website. When a visitor follows a link from one website to another, the site of origin is considered the referrer. These sites can be search engines, social media, blogs, or other websites that have links to other websites. Direct traffic categorizes visits that do not come from a referring URL.
Traditionally, we’ve attributed this traffic to visitors manually entering the URL of the website or clicking on a bookmarked link. Today, however, the story behind direct traffic is a bit more complex, and the number of visits from direct traffic seems to be growing for many websites, especially sites with growing organic traffic.
Why are more sites seeing direct traffic growth, and what should you do about it? Here are some causes of direct traffic:
- Internal employees: Your employees commonly visit your site and do not have their IP filtered from web analytics. As a rule of thumb, filter out all company employee IPs from web analytics.
- Customers: Do your customers log into a customer portal on your site? This is often a culprit within direct traffic. In this case, you do not want to completely filter out the traffic, but instead set up different views within Google Analytics to view web analytics without this traffic.
- Actual direct traffic: These are the people who enter your URL into their browser or find you via a bookmark. There’s nothing you can do to dig deeper on this—just embrace the fact that users actually know your brand.
- Emails from particular email clients: It’s quite common for email clicks from Outlook or Thunderbird to not pass on referring information. You can typically identify whether an email caused a spike in direct traffic by analyzing traffic around the time a particular email was sent.
- Mobile traffic: As mobile users grow, we are likely to see direct traffic rise even more from organic search traffic.
- Clicks on mobile apps or desktop softwares: Programs such as Skype or news apps often do not pass referring information and, thus, result in direct traffic. The best way to capture and analyze this further is to understand where your site links might be commonly used or placed digitally, including apps.
- Secure (https) to non-secure sites (http): Since Google began emphasizing the importance of having a secure site, more websites are securely hosted, as indicated by the “https” in their URLs. Per the security protocol, however, any traffic going from a secure site to a non-secure site will not pass referral information. You can correct for this issue by updating your site to be secure through a third-party SSL certificate.