The Curse And Blessing Of Direct Traffic

One reason to analyze traffic sources is to identify which sources have the most value and to generate ideas on how to get those high value sources to perform better. If you were to ask what is the value of $100 on AdWords, your analytics tool can give you an answer. Often paid search and other channels are combined along the path to purchase causing a multi channel funnel, but there is still a significant amount of sales that search is solely responsible for.

Not so with direct traffic because unlike other sources, it doesn’t work alone. Direct traffic is not really direct for two reasons. 1. The way all analytics tools work is that if they can’t identify the source, they will call the visit direct. 2. Even if it all really was direct – people typing the url in the browser bar, direct traffic is hard to analyze on it’s own because something else always has to cause it to happen. You don’t go typing in a URL in your browser without learning about that URL from somewhere else. You can never really know what initiated someone to come to the site directly. So direct isn’t really a source, it’s an action. A better label for direct would be unknown.

Direct being unknown is not necessarily a bad thing. Direct traffic should be used in conjunction with analyzing all other channels. All the work those other channels do will contribute to direct. This forces you to think of your site’s acquisition strategy in terms of an ecosystem rather than channels working in silos, independant of each other.

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