Differentiating Direct vs Organic Traffic

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If traffic is defined as-paraphrased in my own word- the flow of people and cars, or anything that travels from a point A to point B; then what is direct traffic and organic traffic, and how do they differ? The first thing you should know, that the traffic, to your site, we are referring to is the number of website visits there are on an internet site.

Thinking about how we can help create SEO-optimized content and wondering if SEO is cost-effective? Or even curious, how we increase the organic traffic of our client? Well, that will not be discussed in this article, instead, take a look at Profitcommerce articles about these topics. This article is devoted to direct and organic traffic only.

Differences of Direct and Organic Traffic

We will need first to know the difference between the two, organic and direct traffic. Direct traffic is defined as visitors with no referring website. The number of visits from direct traffic seems to be growing for many websites, especially sites with growing organic traffic. Direct traffic categorizes visits that do not come from a referring URL, only those people who type in your URL directly into the search bar.

While organic traffic is defined as visitors coming from search engines, such as Google or Bing. Organic traffic is the primary channel that inbound marketing strives to increase. This does not include paid search ads, but that doesn’t mean organic traffic isn’t impacted by paid search or display advertising, either positively or negatively.

Why is Direct Traffic so High?

To fully understand direct traffic, back in 2014, Groupon ran a test in which it de-indexed its site for six hours, then, it finds out that 60 percent of direct traffic was actually organic because de-indexing its site and halting organic search traffic also dropped its direct traffic.

Common causes of direct traffic being so high:

Internal employees:

Your employees commonly visit your site and do not have their IP filtered from web analytics. As a rule of thumb, filter out all company employee IPs from web analytics.


Do your customers type the URL into a customer portal on your site? This is often a culprit within direct traffic. In this case, you do not want to completely filter out the traffic, but instead set up different views within Google Analytics to view web results without this web traffic.

Actual direct traffic:

These are the people who enter your URL into their browser or find you via a bookmark. There’s nothing you can do to dig deeper on this when the source of that traffic is actually the searcher—just embrace the fact that people actually know your brand.

Email from email clients:

You can typically identify whether an email caused a spike in direct traffic by analyzing traffic around the time a particular email was sent. The link sources of email are not that rampant like social media.

Mobile traffic:

In the Groupon experiment mentioned above, Groupon found that both the browser and the device matter for the ability of web analytics to track organic traffic. Although desktops using common browsers saw a smaller impact from the test (10-20 percent), mobile devices saw a 50 percent drop in direct traffic when the site was de-indexed. In short, as mobile users grow, we are likely to see direct traffic rise even more from organic search traffic.

Secure (https) to non-secure sites (http):

Since Google began emphasizing the importance of having a secure site, more websites are securely hosted, as indicated by the “HTTP” in their URLs. Per the security protocol, however, any traffic going from a secure site to a non-secure HTTP site will not pass referral information. You can correct this issue by updating your site to be secure through a third-party SSL certificate.

According to web expert Avinash Kaushik, about 20 percent of direct traffic is a healthy amount with regards to website traffic. It is likely we will see this percentage rise due to major web shifts that are disabling marketers from tracking the true traffic source.

Is Direct Traffic Good for SEO?

The traffic that you receive directly will likely be the most targeted traffic that you can get. People are coming to your website because they want to find something specific on your website page or they know that they get what they are looking for on your pages. In most cases, they’re already familiar with your website and they are choosing to come back.

When we talk about search engine optimization, just like those of Google and Bing, we’re talking about organic traffic. Or, simply put, traffic organic that arrives at your site organically and not from advertisements, like paid search traffic and referral traffic. This happens when people click on organic search engine results. Google decides the order of all search engine results through a series of algorithms. Their decision-making process is confidential and proprietary, but good Search Engine experts understand how search engine rankings work and how to move sites up in search results. The higher sites appear in search results, the more qualified the traffic.

To answer your question, direct traffic is not good for SEO efforts…at least not directly. Here’s what Google says:

“Google’s first responsibility is to provide Search users with the most relevant possible results. If businesses were able to pay for higher rankings in the search engine results, users wouldn’t be getting the information they’re looking for.”

What Percentage of Traffic Should be Organic?

The takeaway is that a number of factors can affect the percentage of total website traffic generated by organic search, so there is no clear target. But doing the right things-ongoing SEO, blog, and PR programs, plus being active in social media-drives increased overall site traffic (and leads), which is the most important metric after all.

How Do You Track Organic Traffic?

If your analytics tool can’t figure out the source of the traffic, it is hard for you to track them down.

Here are the steps to track your organic traffic in Google Analytics:

Step 1: Sign in to your Google Analytics and go to your account under the main Reporting tab. The Reporting page is your main dashboard for your website data within Google Analytics.

Step 2: On the left pane, go to the ‘Acquisition’ -> ‘Overview’ tab.

Step 3: Click on ‘Overview’. You’ll now be brought to a subpage that lists out your traffic broken down by medium.

Step 4: At the top of the ‘Acquisition Overview’ page, you can set the date range you want to display data for.

Step 5: In the date range section, you can also set date comparisons (custom, specific periods, or year to year). The date range comparison tool is a great way to tell how you’re progressing over time. For example, is your website gaining more organic traffic or less than a year ago?

Step 6: If you wish for more detailed data on the organic traffic, on the Acquisition Overview page, click ‘Organic Traffic’. More granular data is displayed about the performance of the traffic from organic search along with key terms that were searched in the search engines to get to your website.

The key is understanding how your traffic sources are grouped and what they mean. Creating your own tracking codes will help you track the performance of each of those links.

Bottom Line

A web browser is a big help in searching for anything you and your business need. When that search engine results pages appear, there’s no telling what information marketers pick or what links your company will click.

As a website owner, you must identify the exact traffic sources and track the performance of your search campaign to know where your audience goes. Sometimes, a product is a household name and has such a great reputation that customers don’t even need to research it. But that’s not always the case. A marketer, with a limited understanding of traffic sources, will be at a disadvantage when it comes to landing pages, links, or blogs, for that matter, in attracting traffic.

Marketing tips and help from Profitcommerce can help businesses raise their traffic through SEO because their knowledge of SEO, Content Creation, and Sales is built with the mission to drive and convert high-quality traffic into sales.

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