What is Direct Traffic? Where Does it Come From and How to Measure It

All traffic is good traffic right? While that’s typically the case, there are different kinds of traffic and it’s important to understand which is which so you can learn where your visitors come from and why they’re on your website. 

That said, direct traffic isn’t as easy to track and can even be the telltale sign of tracking errors. In this quick guide, I want to help you learn more about the different types of traffic with a specific focus on direct traffic.  

What is Direct Traffic?

If a visitor is considered “direct” it means they arrived on your website by either directly entering your URL in the search or they clicked on your URL from an untraceable source. 

Unlike other types of traffic that come from search engines, social media platforms, or referral links, direct traffic does not pass through any intermediary source. It is a fundamental component of website analytics and holds valuable insights into user behavior and brand recognition.

How Do You Get Direct Traffic?

To dive into this a little deeper, we need to understand where direct traffic comes from and why it’s both a positive and negative thing. 

On one side, it’s a sign of a strong online presence because people are familiar enough with your website to either enter it letter for letter or have it bookmarked. 

On the other side, this traffic cannot be tracked because Google Analytics doesn’t know where it came from. 

At one time, direct traffic was much more common because of offline marketing through print ads, billboards, and radio. Today, many websites besides the big ones are found through search engine queries. 

Some other ways you can get direct traffic are: 

Improper Redirection – If your website has too many redirects , Google Analytics sometimes has a hard time finding out the original search result. 

Non-Web Documents – If your URL is inside of a PDF or Doc file and someone clicks on it, you will not receive data on that traffic and it will count as direct. 

Dark Social – Social media clicks are tracked but private social channels like email, direct messaging, and Slack are not. 

Direct Traffic vs Organic Traffic

The main thing to understand about these two types of traffic is that one is intentional and one is likely not. If someone types your URL directly into the search bar, it’s very clear that they want to go to your website. That’s direct. 

If someone searches for the best electric lawnmowers and finds your website, that’s organic. They didn’t necessarily mean to find you but your website and page was deemed relevant enough to display for that search. 

Organic traffic requires SEO efforts while direct traffic requires brand recognition and different forms of digital marketing. 

Final Thoughts

Simple enough right? As I said, all traffic is good traffic but it pays to understand the differences. Direct traffic is untrackable so if you rely too heavily on it, you won’t know much about your audience which can make it difficult to market to them in the long-term. 

If you can’t figure out why you have so much direct traffic, consider checking your GA and GSC tracking codes to make sure they’re placed properly and are working. 

Consider publishing some content and working on your SEO if you’d prefer to have more organic visitors land on your site.

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