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Direct Traffic Offers Useful Metric for Website Brand

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Direct traffic

Direct traffic is often the second most important source for website audience after search engines. 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 plays an important role in return visits. It’s also a great metric for measuring a site’s brand and audience loyalty.

Direct Traffic Definition

In Google Analytics, direct traffic is any source that GA can’t identify. More often than not, it means that website visitors came straight to the site on their own and without help from another source. 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 favorite list.
  • People hear or read about the site through offline marketing. Again, they type the URL into the address window.
  • Someone shares a link with a friend, relative or colleague via email.

Google has a more abstract database-oriented definition for direct:

Source exactly matches direct AND
Medium exactly matches (not set)
Medium exactly matches (none)

Data in Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the dominant site statistical program on the market. It’s popular in part because it’s free and in part because it’s so thorough. GA offers important insights about direct traffic.

To find the report, click on Acquisition on the left side, then All Traffic and Source / Medium. In the middle of the page, look for Direct Traffic on the list of acquisition sources. It shows as “direct (none)”. Set the date range to at least 30 days or longer to get a more accurate average.

Note its rank compared to other sources and how the various metrics compare. The report metrics include:

  • New users
  • Bounce rate
  • Pages per session
  • Average session duration

Even though the total direct traffic may have a high rank compared to other sources, it may not be a large number. As an example, one actual site gets 88 percent of total traffic from Google Organics, which is from the Google search engine. 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 and other sources such as advertising much 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 has 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 numbers look low, one answer lies in building the site’s brand.

Direct Traffic Impact on 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 website. What comes to mind?

The percentage of direct  indicates the value that people place on your site and the loyalty they show to it.

Building Site Brand

Site brand can grow in many 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 references to the site wherever a visitor may have any interaction with it — even if they aren’t actually 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 Works Even With Search Engines

Imagine someone comes to a site via a search engine, has a fairly positive experience and 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.

One Response to “Direct Traffic Offers Useful Metric for Website Brand”

  1. Recall2pc Says:

    This information related to website design and SEO helped lot to understand the structure towards SEO. Also, helped to understand about META Description and its relevance so far, Thank you for sharing such a wonderful article.

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