Why Direct Traffic Analytics Are Misleading

Posted by Krista Moon on March 17, 2019

Why Direct Traffice Analytics Are Misleading

A common goal of sales and marketing campaigns is to get people to the website. Analyzing where your website traffic is coming from can provide important insights about how potential customers are responding to your efforts. While you might think that should be a pretty simple measurement to take, it’s not always so black and white.

There is one issue with the way analytics tools report traffic that can be distorting your results. Once you understand what it is, you can take measures to set up campaigns in a way that maximizes your chances of getting the most accurate data so you can make the best decisions for your organization.

The Problem: Direct Traffic Analytics

The culprit is the web traffic source called direct traffic. The reason why it’s so important to understand the nuances of direct traffic is that for most sites, it’s their largest traffic source. Most people assume that direct traffic is coming from users that are directly typing in the website URL – people who already know about you and what they want from your site.

While that is true, there is much more to the story. Website traffic is labeled “direct” when it comes from any source that can’t otherwise be tracked - and there are a lot of reasons why traffic might not be accurately tracked. Here are some of the types of traffic that can show up as direct:

  • Directly typing the URL
  • Bookmarks
  • Email marketing
  • Links embedded in documents
  • Shortlinks
  • Mobile apps
  • https vs. http issues
  • Google misreporting
  • Links encoded in JavaScript
  • Missing analytics codes
  • Cross-device browsing
  • Spam issues

For more details, here are a few good articles you might want to check out:

The Solution: Tracking Links

You can use tracking links in your marketing campaigns to increase the likelihood your traffic will be properly tagged. Tracking links are comprised of the standard URL with a tracking token attached to it. When someone clicks on a tracked linked, they’re tagged with that particular source. For example, if you create a landing page and want to advertise it on Facebook, you can create a unique tracking link for that ad.

For more details, here are some more good articles you might want to check out:

Data is meant to give you a more detailed picture of what’s happening, but because of its complexity, it’s not realistic to think that you’ll be able to get pinpoint accurate data 100% of the time. Continually deepening your understanding of data collection and analysis can help you make smarter decisions about what marketing campaigns drive the best results for your organization.

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