What is Direct Traffic in Google Analytics?

Let’s talk about Direct Traffic in Google Analytics: what it is; what it is isn’t; and why you really need to pay attention to it.

Most people when they get inside their Google Analytics and then to their channel reports, pay a lot of attention to the organic or the social traffic because they’re placing ads. They’re making organic posts and then they’re looking at their email. A lot of people are not really sure what Direct Traffic is, but they see the direct and they’re like, “Eh.”

What Direct Traffic in Google Analytics Is

Direct Traffic is traffic where people have directly entered your URL, as the name would imply and as Google defines it. Direct Traffic represents people that have entered a URL directly into the browser. They’ve entered elevatedmarketing.solutions or whatever website into the browser. Alternatively, people can also be saving and accessing your website from their favorites tabs within the browser. Traffic entering from these areas are considered Direct Traffic.

Google Analytics Direct Traffic

What Direct Traffic Isn’t

The truth of the matter is, though, these are not the only places that can be counted as direct traffic, and in fact, it’s becoming more and more of a larger problem. The problem is that Direct Traffic can become a dumping ground that includes traffic you may actually want to measure.

Other places you can get direct traffic from but probably should not be counted in Direct Traffic:

• Untagged email links: Links from your email campaign that are not putting UTM tracking using the Google URL Builder

• Untagged PDFs, MS Office documents or PowerPoint with links: If the links within these documents are not properly using UTM tracking using the Campaign URL Builder, when clicked, these links will count as direct traffic.

• Incorrect Use of Link Shorteners: You create organic posts on social and you use a shorter like bit.ly. If you didn’t use the campaign URL Builder before you shortened that URL with the Bitly shortener, then those links are going to go into Direct Traffic.

Shorteners can cause unintended direct traffic, so it’s a safe bet if you’re using the Campaign URL Builder. The Campaign URL Builder actually has a shortener that’s built in, so that is something that I would recommend using.

• Under-Represented Traffic from Social Media: A lot of a Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram and other networks are being used for advertising. Unfortunately, right now, these social media apps are not 100% in passing referral data over into Google analytics, so that means this traffic falls into direct traffic.

That’s why you’re never going to see your reports match up when you’re looking at Facebook into Google analytics. Pretty unfortunate. Big culprit, and that’s also going to relay into messaging apps.
302 Redirects: Let’s say your website is doing what’s called a 302 redirect instead of a permanent redirect of a 301. That referral data is not going to be passed, as well, and will fall into direct traffic.

• Non Secure URL: Now, this is a big one. In today’s environment, if your site is not a secure URL, meaning if you don’t have the HTTPS in front of your site and other sites do and they’re passing traffic to your site so they have a link into your site, that referral traffic from a secure URL to your non-secured URL is going to fall into direct traffic. This is going to be a big contributor to direct traffic these days as people start to migrate over to HTTPS.

Overall Direct traffic includes part of your email, documents like PDFs, social media traffic, non-secured traffic to your website and other reasons why traffic could be counted as direct traffic.

The bottom line is that Direct Traffic is really a mystery bucket that Google puts traffic it’s not sure what to do with. However, it shouldn’t be ignored and you should not just assume it’s people who directly enter your URL. It’s a whole host of other sources, so you should, in fact, pay attention to it and look for trends within the data.