Direct Traffic vs Organic Traffic: Understanding Each and It’s Benefits and Drawbacks

When we start a website, we don’t often question where the traffic comes from because we’re just happy to see any traffic at all. 

Over time, you might start to wonder what sources, keywords, and devices are bringing in the most traffic for you. Comparing direct traffic vs organic traffic might be one of those main comparisons you start to consider early on. 

The goal of this guide is to explain the differences between these two types of traffic and to help you understand what might make one better than the other. 

What is Direct Traffic?

Direct traffic refers to visitors who find your website by typing the URL directly into the address bar or clicking on a bookmark. Unlike other sources of traffic, it doesn’t originate from a referral link or search engine result. 

Most of the time, a user who finds you via direct traffic is already familiar with your brand and might visit frequently to shop or read your content. 

Other factors that can impact direct traffic are offline marketing efforts. If you advertise on TV, radio, or print; people are likely to find the exact URL and enter that into Google. 

What is Organic Traffic?

Why is Direct Traffic a Problem?

As I’ve said before, all traffic is good traffic, until it’s not. If you have a surplus of direct traffic, this could actually become a problem because it’s hard to track it and analyze the data. 

Since direct traffic encompasses visitors who directly type your URL into their browsers or use bookmarks, determining whether the visits are a result of brand recognition, offline marketing efforts, or dark social sharing can be tricky. 

The lack of referral information means that it’s often difficult to differentiate between direct visitors who discovered the website through word of mouth, traditional advertising, or other channels.

What is Organic Traffic and How to Track It

While direct traffic may be hard to track, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience these types of issues unless you focus entirely on offline marketing. If that’s the case then you don’t have to worry about tracking organic traffic. 

That said, if you’re creating content with the intention of ranking higher in the Google search results, you’ll want to understand direct traffic vs organic traffic. 

Organic traffic represents visitors that find your website naturally through unpaid search engine results. For example, if I Google “best brewery in Chicago” I get the following results:

organic search results

These websites did not pay to be in this position, they’re ranking at the top of the Google search naturally which is what makes them “organic traffic.” 

So, besides Googling a bunch of phrases to see if you rank, how can you track your organic traffic and rankings? 

Google Analytics

Creating a Google Analytics account is a necessity if you’re trying to get organic traffic. Create an account and add your website by creating a new property and following the setup instructions. You’ll need to paste a tracking code into the header section of your website’s HTML. This link will help you set up Google Analytics .

Google Search Console

GSC is another great way to track organic traffic and see what keywords you’re ranking for in the SERPs. 

The same setup process is involved for Google Search Console. This includes verifying ownership of your website using an HTML code and waiting a few hours for the data to populate. This link will help you set up Google Search Console.  

SEO Tools

Some of the best SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush can provide you with great information on your rankings, keywords, and competitors. I believe these tools are invaluable and essential to your organic traffic growth so I highly recommend using at least one of them. 

using ahrefs

Keep in mind that there are fluctuations in the data between these SEO tools and Google’s actual information on Analytics and GSC so don’t consider these tools as a substitute for setting up tracking on your website. 

What to Do About Direct Traffic? Should You Do Anything?

The only time direct traffic becomes a problem is when you have too much traffic that you can’t track. This is a problem because you don’t know who they are, where they came from, or why they’re on your site. 

This can make it difficult to create future content, product pages, and so on if you have no idea who your audience actually is. 

Like I’ve said, this issue isn’t likely to happen but I’ve seen it before. You’ll want more than 75% of your traffic to come organically unless you’re focusing on local and direct marketing efforts. 

Final Thoughts

Comparing direct traffic vs organic traffic doesn’t have to be complicated and I don’t want you to think of direct traffic as a “doom and gloom” kind of thing. The main thing to understand is that direct traffic is much harder to track so you don’t want to rely on it for too long. 

That said, all traffic is good traffic so if you’re just starting out and you’re getting mostly direct, don’t worry. Do some keyword research, use the top SEO tools, sign up to all the tracking platforms, and you should be fine! 

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