You Ask, I Answer: Causes of Direct Traffic in Google Analytics

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You Ask, I Answer: Causes of Direct Traffic in Google Analytics

Parker asks, “Why is my direct traffic so large in Google Analytics? Are people really typing my website in that much?”

In this video, I review the top 10 causes of direct traffic misattribution in Google Analytics™, including 4 causes that are under your control and fixable. You’ll learn what direct traffic is, why it wrecks attribution analysis, the causes, and how to remediate the various causes.

You Ask, I Answer: Causes of Direct Traffic in Google Analytics

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.

In today’s episode, Parker asks my sites, web traffic. And Google Analytics is so big in direct traffic. Why are people really typing in my websites address that much. This is a very common misconception. People believe that direct traffic is when you type in the URL to your website and go there directly. And that’s what it originally meant in Google Analytics. However,

direct traffic has become a catch all for traffic that Google doesn’t know what to do with, like, okay, there’s no source, there’s no medium, there is no campaign set, there’s no

Edwards tags, there’s no UTI tags, there’s no referring source, so it goes in the direct bucket.

So direct traffic should properly be called uncategorizable traffic,

Google doesn’t know what to do with it. So it lumps it all on the direct bucket. Now, if direct traffic is 50% of your traffic, then you’re starting to run into really serious sampling problems, where you might be Miss activating what’s actually working for you. Because if you’ve got this tracking bug, there are 10 ish sources of direct traffic, which four of them really are under your control, six of them are not. So let’s go through what these sources are because they’re important and some of the ones that you can fix you should fix number one, typing in the URL, of course, is is direct traffic, there’s no attribution number two saved bookmarks. When someone clicks on the saved bookmark and their browser, again, that’s going to come in as direct number three secure encrypted browsers, there are some browsers that when they’re insecure mode, or when they’re in anonymous mode, for example, privacy mode, they will not be sending referring data and that’s important to know

number for certain email clients. Some mobile email clients like the Mail app on iPhone, some desktop clients like Thunderbird outlook, things like that any any links that don’t have a UTI tracking links, codes built into them will come in as direct because there is no browser. So it’s really important. If you are not using a UTI tracking code system you should be absolutely should be the only way to keep your your data clean. Number five is messaging apps. So we chat line kick Tango, all these new messaging apps, they all have your browser’s kind of built into them for clicking on a link. But when you tap on that link on your phone, it’s direct traffic because those those pieces of software don’t have attribution,

Facebook Messenger does, but its body

and number six on the things that are more or less out of your control non web content. So if you have PDFs on your website, if you have mp3 is on your website, those will show up as direct traffic because you can’t put it Google Analytics tracking code in them.


the solution to a lot of those problems, at least for things like secure browsers and stuff is to be using the UTA tracking codes to Google Analytics tracking codes in every link that you share in every link that you’ve published. So that there’s always a tracking code to be that it can refer to

That’s hard. It requires a lot of discipline, it requires you to have your spreadsheets or databases or something that as a repository for your links so that

things don’t go on a trip we did. But it’s the only way

to guarantee the attribution for a lot of this things like messaging apps and stuff. So be meticulous about that use good marketing automation software, good marketing automation software typically will have like a its own link shortener built in that preserves those tracking codes. So that’s important

for things you do have control over. Number one is untracked web pages. So if you have a page on your website where there is no tracking, go know Google Analytics tracking code. And the visitor goes there first, and then goes to another page onto your website where there is a tracking code. But guess what, that’s direct traffic, because your site’s essentially referring traffic to itself. And there is no campaign source, there’s no source or medium or campaign attached. So make sure that every page or at least every important page on your website has a Google Analytics tracking code. And there are a number of tools that you can use. To do that, I use one called scraping. It’s a Python script. And you just customize it to make sure that has the tracking codes checkers in it. A big one is secure to non secure. So if your website is not using SSL if you don’t have a digital certificate on it, and someone comes to your website from a secure site. So they were on New York Times calm, right. And, and that’s a secure site, it’s got little lock icon, and they come to you, they click on a link and they come to your website, guess what, if you don’t have a secure website,

the what happens is Google Analytics says, Hey, secure data is coming into an unsecured website, drop the secure

data. Because we don’t want to cause a leak, we don’t want to cause

interception of the secure data. So without a digital certificate,

proper digital certificate in place, all that all that website to referring data gets lost. So if you are in, for example, the public relations and media relations field, and you have a client who does not have a secure website, you cannot do attribution on your media relations, because you have no idea how much is getting lost, because that client does not have SSL turned on their web server. So super important that sites have a digital certificate operational and valid. and other one is broken redirects. Particularly if you’re using a redirect that is client side, meaning it’s JavaScript based, rather than server side, if someone bounces gets bounced around, bunch of times, stuff may get stripped off stuff may just get dropped along the way, if it’s client side where the page does a refresh with something like JavaScript, it’s definitely not carrying over any referring data. So that becomes direct traffic. And the last one of course is link shorteners is it when you submit a link to a link shortener, if that linked is not tracked,

they didn’t put the ETF tracking codes, it’s going to come in as direct as well. So there are a lot of ways to lose data and, and some of them are preventable, all of them can be compensated for in some way with proper use of UTI tracking code. So it’s really important that you use your GM tracking codes. It’s important that your website be functional. It’s important that your Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager code be operational on every page. And it’s important for that website to be secure. Those are the ways that you can minimize the impact of direct traffic. And then once you’ve done that, then you can go ahead and start doing attribution analysis safely on your website site. But without all this stuff in place, it gets super risky so

make sure you follow those steps. If you have questions,

please leave them in the comments below. And as always, if please make sure that you subscribe to the YouTube channel and the newsletter and I’ll talk to you soon. Take care

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