The Google Analytics metric that most marketers don’t understand is ‘direct traffic.’ There is a common misconception that these represent visitors who typed in the URL or bookmarked your website. In theory, this sounds great and translates into brand awareness.
The reality is that direct traffic is anything that Google doesn’t know how to categorize. It could be people typing in your URL. But it is often search traffic, SMS or email traffic, traffic from apps, traffic from HTTPS websites. It can also be the result of poorly implemented redirects or broken UTM parameters.
This translates into lost data and stops you from understanding which campaigns are effective. If your direct traffic is anything above 15%, you should be taking active steps to fix the problem. Here are three things to try:
Solution 1: Use UTM tags everywhere. Almost every link that is not part of your website should have tags added. Social media, emails, SMS. Learn more here, here or here.
Solution 2: Study the landing pages. Which pages get the most direct traffic? Where could this traffic be coming from? Very unlikely that lots of people are typing the URL of a deep internal page… was the link shared in a campaign? Or is the traffic redirecting from an old page?
Solution 3: Look at traffic patterns. Has the % of direct traffic changed over time? What else has changed? Are there particular times of day or days of the week that see more direct traffic? Can this point you to a location or set of users? What does the direct traffic do on your site?
There is some level of direct traffic that is inevitable, but almost all websites can take simple steps to reduce the attribution % and learn far more about their traffic and campaigns. Good luck!