Guest post by Lolly Spindler, Content Marketing Manager at xoombi. A writer by trade, Lolly loves to make the written word work for clients by delivering high quality, engaging content to their audiences. She leads the xoombi content marketing team in executing demand generation, SEO, and copy editing strategies. Lolly is a graduate of Boston University.
Do you ever wonder why your analytics report says you’re getting so many visitors from direct traffic? What exactly is direct traffic anyway?
Usually, sources of traffic are broken down into the following:
- Organic search
- Social Media
- Email Marketing
- Paid Search
- Direct Traffic
- Other Campaigns
While most sources are fairly self-explanatory, direct traffic refers to when someone types in a URL directly into his or her browser or accesses the page of the website via their bookmarks.
The question arises when you see that blog posts you’ve recently published are getting a lot of direct traffic. How would someone know to type in that URL or have bookmarked it already?
From xoombi’s traffic source report: Direct traffic is in blue.
At xoombi, seeing as our second leading source of traffic is direct, we were very interested in finding an answer to this question.
Thanks to Groupon, we now have an answer. For the sake of SEO science, Groupon completely de-indexed their site for six hours to answer this direct traffic question.
According to Search Engine Land, during the test Groupon:
…examined Organic search and Direct traffic by hour and by browser to any page with a “long” URL, like www.groupon.com/local/san-francisco/restaurants. We define long as being at least in a sub-folder, so this excludes the home page and top level folders like /coupons, /getaways, etc. (We excluded these “short” URLs because those are pages that actually do get a fair amount of Direct traffic—on the homepage, Direct really is Direct.)
By focusing on their longer, more specific URLs (comparable to a blog post’s URL), they were able to determine just how much of their direct traffic was actually organic.
Groupon found that at the same time SEO efforts dropped to near zero from about 1pm to 4pm, direct visits fell 60%.
However, they did notice that what browser was being used made a big difference. For example, about 75% of direct traffic from Internet Explorer to long URLs is “actually attributable to Organic search from Google.” While “about 10-20% of Firefox, Chrome and Safari desktop traffic reported as Direct is actually Organic.”
It’s helpful to keep in mind that, according to browser statistics from April 2015, 63.9% of internet users use Chrome, 21.6% use Firefox, 8% use Internet Explorer and 3.8% use Safari.
In general, Groupon points out that mobile browsers are “less likely to report their referrals from Organic search accurately.”
When it came to testing only for mobile browsers, the drop in direct traffic during the test period was about 50%.
Why Does This Matter?
Although this experiment was performed when Groupon’s site was de-indexed from Google alone, it’s safe to assume that organic traffic from other search engines like Bing is similarly over-reported as direct.
What’s more, if a good amount of your traffic is to long URLs, it’s possible that a big chunk of that direct traffic is actually organic. Meaning that your organic ranking and the value of your SEO are significantly understated.
Why is organic traffic important? To put it simply, the better your organic traffic, the more you’re showing up on search engine results pages (SERPs). Everyone wants to be returned as a result from a Google inquiry, which is why so many people invest in SEO to begin with. What’s more, organic traffic generally converts better as it catches people close to or at the end of their buying cycle.