Direct Traffic is a Google Analytics dimension that appears in your Google Analytics reports:
- All Traffic Sources report
- Direct Traffic report
Google Analytics Direct Traffic Definition
Google provides a simple definition for the direct traffic dimension:
Direct Traffic: How do the people who clicked a bookmark to come to your site or typed your site URL into their browser compare to the “average” visitor to your site? Direct traffic can include visitors recruited via offline (i.e. print, television) campaigns.
Google Analytics Blog defines direct traffic as:
(direct)[(none)] – Visitors who visited the site by typing the URL directly into their browser. ‘Direct’ can also refer to the visitors who clicked on the links from their bookmarks/favorites, untagged links within emails, or links from documents that don’t include tracking variables (such as PDFs or Word documents).
Direct Traffic in Google Analytics Reports
If your Google Analytics setup is correct, visits in Google Analytics reports will show up as direct traffic when users:
- Enter your site’s URL (e.g. www.gordonchoi.com) directly in browsers.
- Visit your website directly from bookmarks.
- Click on untagged URL links (e.g. www.gordonchoi.com) in emails or instant messaging conversations (including MSN Messenger, Skype).
- Click on untagged URL links (e.g. www.gordonchoi.com) embedded in PDF documents, Word documents or Excel spreadsheets.
- Click on untagged URL links (e.g. www.gordonchoi.com) in Android phone applications (e.g. Facebook app, Twitter app).
- Click on a 302 redirect link (temporary redirect link) in which the redirect server returns a blank referrer (direct).
- Click on URL links on secured web pages that are unable to pass referral information through to the URL links’ destination pages.
If your Google Analytics setup is correct, but some of your web pages are missing Google Analytics tracking code snippets:
- When visitors enter your site through landing pages that are missing Google Analytics tracking code snippets, and then click on an internal link pointing to another web page on your site that has the tracking code correctly inserted, visits will be credited to direct traffic.
For the definition of “visits”, refer to Google Analytics metrics.
Not Direct Traffic in Google Analytics Reports
Visits that will not contribute to direct traffic in Google Analytics:
- A visitor’s first visit to your site was through organic search engines, referring sites, or all other tagged traffic sources (e.g. Adwords ads, Bing Adcenter ads, Baidu Phoenix Nest ads, Facebook ads, Twitter links). Subsequently, the same visitor directly lands on your site (e.g. bookmark) which makes a second visit. As the campaign tracking’s cookie (utmz) of Google Analytics is set to expire in 6 months in the visitor’s browser, the second visit will be assigned a non-direct referrer.
- When Adwords auto-tagging is turned off, and your Adwords keywords and/or ads are not tagged with Google Analytics’ utm parameters, the visits will be credited to organic (unpaid search).
- Other PPC (paid search) campaigns (e.g. Bing Adcenter, Yahoo Search Marketing, Baidu Phoenix Nest) that are not tagged with Google Analytics’ utm parameters will have visits credited to organic (unpaid search).
- Display ad campaigns that are not tagged with Google Analytics’ utm parameters will have visits credited to referring sites.
- Internet browsers that support tabbed browsing (e.g. Firefox, Google’s Chrome) pass referrers’ information to links subsequently opened in all the new tabs.
To track PPC campaigns correctly, refer to Google Analytics PPC conversion tracking.
Set Brand Keywords through Search Engines as Direct Traffic
In Google Analytics, you may re-define keywords through search engine visits as direct traffic.
When visitors reach your website from search engines through your site’s brand keywords (e.g. Gordon Choi, for site www.gordonchoi.com), you may remove keyword “gordon choi” from Google Analytics Keyword Report and assign the visits to direct traffic.
- Use the
_addIgnoredOrganic()method to treat a keyword as direct traffic.
- Use the
_clearIgnoredOrganic()method to revert the
_clearIgnoredOrganic()method will clear out your keyword ignore list and make all search engine traffic to re-appear as keywords again.
This reference describes how you can customize search engine traffic with the
Tips from Other Web Analysts
Other web analytics experts offer opinions on Google Analytics direct traffic dimension:
- Excellent analytics tip #18 make love to your direct traffic: Avinash Kaushik offers comprehensive explanations on what direct traffic really is, the importance of direct traffic, and how to correctly track direct traffic with your web analytics tools, including Google Analytics and Omniture’s Site Catalyst.
- Web Analytics Demystified: Avinash Kaushik explains direct traffic can be non-direct due to badly coded redirects or vanity urls or improperly coded campaigns.
- Analytics direct traffic is not what you think it is: Jonny Longden of Actionable Analytics believes direct traffic is not only visitors that enter your website’s URL directly in the browsers.
- Direct Traffic 5 Reasons Why You Should Care: Daily Blog Tips shows why direct traffic is important and how to increase direct traffic.