Large amount of leads from Direct Traffic
If you are seeing a higher-than-expected amount of leads being categorised as Direct Traffic, then this article can help you understand what Direct Traffic is and what can be done about it.
A definition of ‘Direct Traffic’
When someone lands on your website, Attributer (and every other analytics tool on the planet) looks at two things to determine where they came from:
- UTM parameters – We first look to see whether a UTM parameter is present (I.e. http://www.attributer.io?utm_source=google&utm_medium=paidsearch). If one is present, we use that to determine where they came from.
- Referrer – If no UTM parameter is present, we then look at the ‘HTTP referer’ (which is a bit of information passed by the visitor’s web browser that basically says ‘This person’s previous page was google.com, or facebook.com, or forbes.com or whatever).
Technically, a lead is considered ‘Direct Traffic’ when there is no UTM parameters present AND there is no Referrer passed by the browser.
How someone can arrive at your site from ‘Direct Traffic’
Historically, Direct Traffic meant that the visitor had come directly to your site by typing your website URL into their browser (hence why it was called Direct Traffic).
However, as the digital landscape has evolved, there are now a number of other ways in which a person could arrive at your website and it would be considered Direct Traffic. These include:
- Messaging Apps – If someone naturally shares a link to your website in a messaging app (like SMS, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, Slack, etc) and the visitor clicks the link outside the browser (I.e. they click it in the SMS application on their phone, or the Slack application on their desktop) then there would be no UTM parameters and no Referrer, so therefore it would be considered Direct Traffic.
- Email Apps – If someone naturally shares a link to your website via email and the visitor clicks the link outside the browser (I.e. they click it in the Mail application on their phone, or in Outlook on their computer) then there would be no UTM parameters and no Referrer, so therefore it would be considered Direct Traffic.
- Documents – If someone naturally includes a link to your website in a document (I.e. PDF, Word doc, PowerPoint presentation, etc) and the visitor clicks the link outside a browser (I.e. they click it in Microsoft Word on their computer) then there would be no UTM parameters and no Referrer, so therefore it would be considered Direct Traffic.
In short, if someone is just naturally shared a link to your website and clicks it outside a browser, it would most likely be considered ‘Direct Traffic’
Technical Issues that can cause a Direct Traffic categorisation
In most cases, the vast majority of your ‘Direct Traffic’ leads can be attributed to one of the factors above (I.e. they were shared a link in an email or messaging app and clicked it there).
However, there are some technical ways a lead can be considered Direct Traffic. These include:
- Self-Referral – This can happen if the Attributer code is not installed on ALL pages of your website. To illustrate this, imagine your website is petesgardening.com. If someone initially lands on a page of your site that doesn’t have the Attributer code on it and then clicks through to one that does, the first time Attributer sees that person is actually on the second page they visited and the browser is going to tell us that the referring site was petesgardening.com. And because the referring site was your own website, this would then get categorised as Direct Traffic.
- Websites that block Referrer information – It’s pretty rare because it’s quite technical to implement and there is no benefit to doing it, but it is possible to block the Referrer information being sent. So if someone clicked a link to your website from another website that has chosen to block the Referrer information being sent, there would be no Referrer passed by the browser and the visitor would be categorised as Direct Traffic.
- HTTPS to HTTP – If your website uses HTTPS (which it likely does) then this won’t impact you so you can probably stop reading. But technically, if someone clicks a link from a website that is using HTTPS (which most websites do) and lands on your website (and you’re not using HTTPS) then the Referrer information would be stripped as browsers don’t pass information from HTTPS website to HTTP websites. Again though, it’s very likely your website is using HTTPS (it’s the default setup for most website builders and you’d see big error messages every time you visited your website if you weren’t using it) so this isn’t likely to be an issue.
What to do if you have a lot of leads from ‘Direct Traffic’
For the most part, there isn’t a lot you can do.
You can’t add UTM parameters when someone just naturally shares a link to your website with their friends/colleagues in an SMS message (for instance), and if that person clicks the link in the SMS application on their phone then the browser won’t be able to pass through any Referrer data because technically there was no previous webpage that referred the visitor to your website.
The best thing to do is just to understand what ‘Direct Traffic’ really is (which is essentially people sharing links to your website in messaging apps, documents, email, etc) and act accordingly.
So in the same way that if you see a lead come from ‘Paid Search’ you know they came from your Google or Bing Ads, just know that a lead that comes from ‘Direct Traffic’ most likely came from clicking a link that was shared with them by a friend or colleague.
One thing that you can do to try to help understand things a little better is look at the ‘Landing Page’ information that Attributer also passes through and see what page of your website they are initially landing on.
In most cases, this will be your home page as it’s the most common page people share (if I am sharing the details of the cleaning company I use with a friend, I’ll most likely just share a link to their homepage. It’s unlikely I would share a link to one of their blog posts or something like that).
However, if you do see a large number of your Direct Traffic leads have a different landing page, then it may give you hints as to why this is happening. For instance, if you see most of your Direct Traffic are first landing on one of your blog posts, then maybe it’s a sign that it was shared among some friends/colleagues in a WhatsApp group or Slack Channel.
What to do if you think there are technical issues
If you don’t think all of the above would explain the amount of leads you get from Direct Traffic and you think there may be a technical issue, then the best way to figure out if there is or not is to just test your typical lead flows.
For instance, open an Incognito window and do a Google Search for your company name. Click through to your website and then complete a form. If the lead comes through as ‘Direct Traffic’ then you know there is a technical issue, if it comes through as ‘Organic Search’ then it’s likely there isn’t one.
Then just repeat this for some of your most common lead acquisition paths (so open a new Incognito window and click one of your Google Ads and complete a form, or click one of your Facebook Ads and complete a form).
If these tests come through with the correct Channel information (I.e. Organic Search, Paid Search, etc) then it’s pretty likely there aren’t any technical issues and your ‘Direct Traffic’ leads are coming from people just naturally sharing links to your site among friends/colleagues.
If on the odd chance you do find there is a technical issue, then contact us and we can help you resolve it.
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