Part of the Learn a New Thing Every Day Series #2
Full credit this post this goes to Georgi Georgiev and the Analytics-Toolkit.com blog who published a post titled What is (direct) / (none) source in Google Analytics? Published on October 7, 2015.
Direct Traffic in web analytics has historically been defined as traffic that came to your site by either typing your URL into the browser’s Address Bar or by clicking on a bookmark the user had already set into their browser. They came directly to your site without clicking on a links on any other site or search engine or link in an email etc. No middleman…just straight to you.
Now, no system is perfect and that includes Google Analytics. My team and I knew that Direct Traffic was not as pure as described above and in particular knew that traffic from links within mobile apps was recorded as Direct. We also knew that anything that Google could not determine the channel for, was classified as Direct.
What we did not know was how extensive the possible universe of what Google could not figure out is.
Here is the list that Mr. Georgiev compiled on circumstances that leads Google Analytics to classifying traffic as Direct:
- User types in a URL
- User clicks on a bookmark
- User clicks on a link in an e-mail from Outlook or Thunderbird or similar desktop software
- User clicks on a link in Skype or other desktop messengers
- User clicks on a link in a PDF, DocX, ODF, XLSX or a different type of document.
- User clicks on a link in a mobile app
- User clicks on a link from a secured site (https://something) to your non-secured site (just http://something)
- User clicks through a URL-shortener or in a different scenario where certain JS is being used (rare)
- User clicks on a link in any desktop software in general…
What to do now?
- Review your web analytics reports with a critical eye looking at the Landing Pages that have Direct / (none) as their source / medium. For deep content pages there is a good chance Direct is an incorrect source. This is especially true if the landing page is a new addition to your site.
- Possibly reclassify Direct Traffic as “Mostly Unknown Sources”
- Use UTM code. Make sure that any link that your team is putting into market has proper UTM coding appended to it. UTM code is the code that Google Analytics uses for campaign tracking and will allow Google Analytic to properly classify your traffic.
Inform the people in your organization who need to know. Their marketing efforts may be preforming better than everyone thought…UTM tracking will be sure to help tell a more accurate story.