The Direct Traffic Myth

Have you ever wondered how exactly “direct” traffic is measured in Google Analytics? For the most part, this traffic comes from users directly navigating to your site through their browser toolbar or a bookmark. As it turns out there could be other sources that are counted as direct traffic when they aren’t. These include ppc,display or links from other sites that for some reason don’t pass a referrer.

You can paste the following code into you’re browser toolbar after clicking through an ad to you’re site to see if (any) referrer was passed. If it’s empty than Google Analytics will count it towards direct traffic if you don’t pass any campaign tracking parameters.

javascript:alert(document.referrer)

How do I fix this?

1. Realize that a chunk of the traffic that shows up in your “direct” bucket ~(10-15%) could be attributed to some other source e.g (ppc,display,link). This could be from click-through traffic or type-in traffic (where people see you’re ad and type in you’re url instead of clicking on it.) The latter case is essentially free advertising and while hard to measure directly should be considered into the ROI calculation for advertising. This is why it’s always important to display a url in you’re advertisement.

2. Always use tracking parameters in your urls when possible. http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics

Adam Breckler

Adam Breckler

Currently Founder/CEO Prism Labs. Previously, Co-Founder & Head of Product at Visual.ly. Sometimes investor and advisor to early-stage startups.