However, it doesn’t get that kind of respect.
How often do site publishers brag about their direct traffic numbers on the various blogs and forums dedicated to online publishing? The answer is, not very often.
But the analytics for many sites will show that direct traffic is the second highest source of audience for those sites.
Direct traffic shows up in several forms:
- People remember the name of the site and type it into the browser address window.
- Visitors like the site enough to put it in their browser favorites.
- People hear or read about the site through offline marketing.
- Someone shares a link with a friend or colleague via email.
Direct Traffic in Google Analytics
Google Analytics is the dominant site statistical program on the market, in part because it’s free and in part because it’s so thorough. It provides important insights about direct traffic.
To find the report, click on Acquisition on the left side, then on Source / Medium. In the middle of the page, look for Direct Traffic on the list of acquisition sources.
Note its rank compared to other sources and how the various metrics compare. They include:
- New users
- Bounce rate
- Pages per session
- Average session duration
Even though the total direct traffic may have a high rank, it may not be a large number. As an example, one actual site gets 88 percent of total traffic from Google Organics. Direct traffic has second place with 7 percent of the total.
That means the site is highly vulnerable to changes in Google’s algorithms. It’s a good reason to focus on pushing direct traffic higher.
More insights are available by clicking on the Direct Traffic link and then on the Secondary Dimension button right above it.
Some of the sections won’t have any data because direct traffic is harder to track and measure than other sources. But the Behavior section will provide some interesting data about the landing page and next page. For sites focusing on mobile, demographics or geo targeting, the User section will be helpful.
If the direct traffic numbers look low, one answer lies in building the site’s brand.
A Simple Definition of Brand
If someone remembers the name of the site, score one for brand. In brief, think of brand as a product with unique, desirable or memorable characteristics.
Coca Cola is one of the world’s most famous brands. Just say the words, and most people will know it in the form of taste, color and the widely promoted red logo.
Think of Google and search comes to mind.
Think of your own Web site. What comes to mind?
The percentage of direct traffic indicates the value that people place on your site and the loyalty that show to it.
Building Site Brand
Site brand can grow in numerous ways. The product way is by creating a unique experience for the visitors — exceptional writing, headlines, photos, graphics or design are the usual tools.
The marketing way is by putting the site site wherever a visitor may have any interaction with the site — even if they aren’t on the site.
The tactics include putting the site name or logo in many places:
- The page titles, preferably at the end of the title.
- The page meta description, again toward the end.
- House ads on the site.
- Social media sites such as a Facebook fan page or Twitter page.
- Email signature.
Brand Even Works with Search Engines
Imagine someone comes to a site via a search engine, has a fairly positive experience and then leaves again.
That individual goes back into a search engine a few days later and does a search on another but similar set of keywords.
The site he or she visited shows up in the search result. The visitor sees the name in the title, url or meta description and goes, “Ah, I’ve seen that before and it’s pretty good.”
How often do searchers click on a link and are presented with a bad site filled with popups, poor writing or worse?
The odds of a visit then go up. Known qualities have value, and that value becomes a brand that drives more direct traffic.
One final thought:
Experience shows that strong brands get a lot of traffic from search engines.
Even when some people know the name and url of a site, they will enter the actual address or a version of it in a search engine.
So brand loyalty impacts not only direct traffic but search results as well.