Difference between direct traffic and referral traffic

Direct traffic is a Google Analytics session (or visit) that starts without a referrer being passed by a user’s web browser.

In Google Analytics, a session is a group of hits recorded for a user in a given time period. A hit is a user’s interaction (pageview, screen view, event, transaction, etc) with your website that results in data being sent to the Google Analytics server.

A user can generate one or more sessions.

Whenever a referrer is not passed or is dropped because of technical reasons, Google Analytics is not able to determine the traffic source and the traffic is treated as direct traffic by Google. In that case, GA sets the traffic source to ‘direct’ and medium to ‘none’.

For example, in the case of traffic coming from a Microsoft Word document, instant messenger app (like Skype) or a mobile app, the referrer is not passed and hence Google Analytics is not able to determine the source of the traffic. Because of that, all such traffic is treated as direct traffic by Google.

The direct marketing channel can be made up of any number of traffic sources as long as the traffic sources are unknown to Google Analytics.

Get the E-book (52 Pages)

Get the E-Book (37 Pages)

 

Referral traffic is a Google Analytics session (or visit) that starts with a referrer being passed by a user’s web browser.  

Technically speaking, traffic from any website to your website is referral traffic (as long as a referrer is being passed by a user’s web browser). But in the context of Google Analytics, traffic from search engines and most PPC/CPM ads (like Google Adwords), is not reported as referral traffic.

When you add a domain to the referral exclusion list, people who arrive at your website from the excluded domain do not trigger a new GA session and the traffic from the excluded domain is reported as direct traffic by Google Analytics.

A referral exclusion list is the list of domains whose incoming traffic is treated as direct traffic (instead of referral traffic) by Google Analytics:

The referral marketing channel can be made up of any number of traffic sources as long as the medium of the traffic sources is ‘referral’.

For example, the referral marketing channel can be made up of following traffic sources:

#1 facebook / referral
#2 tripadvisor / referral
#3 bing.com / referral

To learn more about direct traffic, check out the article: Complete Guide to Direct Traffic Analysis in Google Analytics

Related Articles

 

Do you know the difference between Web Analytics and Google Analytics?


99.99% of course creators themselves don’t know the difference between Web analytics, Google Analytics (GA) and Google Tag Manager (GTM).

So they are teaching GA and GTM in the name of teaching Web analytics.

They just copy each other. Monkey see, monkey do.

But Web analytics is not about GA, GTM.

It is about analyzing and interpreting data, setting up goals, strategies and KPIs.

It’s about creating strategic roadmap for your business.


Web Analytics is the core skill. Google Analytics is just a tool used to implement ‘Web Analytics’.

You can also implement ‘Web analytics’ via other tools like ‘adobe analytics’, ‘kissmetrics’ etc.

Using Google Analytics without the good understanding of ‘Web analytics’ is like driving around in a car, in a big city without understanding the traffic rules and road signs.

You are either likely to end up somewhere other than your destination or you get involved in an accident.


You learn data analysis and interpretation from Web analytics and not from Google Analytics.

The direction in which your analysis will move, will determine the direction in which your marketing campaigns and eventually your company will move to get the highest possible return on investment.

You get that direction from ‘Web analytics’ and not from ‘Google Analytics’.


You learn to set up KPIs, strategies and measurement framework for your business from ‘Web analytics’ and not from ‘Google Analytics’.

So if you are taking a course only on 'Google Analytics’, you are learning to use one of the tools of ‘Web analytics’. You are not learning the ‘Web analytics’ itself.

Since any person can learn to use Google Analytics in couple of weeks, you do no get any competitive advantage in the marketplace just by knowing GA.

You need to know lot more than GA in order to work in Web analytics and marketing field.


So what I have done, if you are interested, is I have put together a completely free training that will teach you exactly how I have been able to leverage web/digital analytics to generate floods of news sales and customers and how you can literally copy what I have done to get similar results.

Here what You'll Learn On This FREE Web Class!


1) Why digital analytics is the key to online business success

2) The number 1 reason why most marketers are not able to scale their advertising and maximize sales.

3) Why Google and Facebook ads don’t work for most businesses & how to make them work.

4) Why you won’t get any competitive advantage in the marketplace just by knowing Google Analytics.


5) The number 1 reason why conversion optimization is not working for your business.

6) How to advertise on any marketing platform for FREE with an unlimited budget.

7) How to learn and master digital analytics and conversion optimization in record time.

 
 

My best selling books on Digital Analytics and Conversion Optimization

Maths and Stats for Web Analytics and Conversion Optimization
This expert guide will teach you how to leverage the knowledge of maths and statistics in order to accurately interpret data and take actions, which can quickly improve the bottom-line of your online business.

Master the Essentials of Email Marketing Analytics
This book focuses solely on the ‘analytics’ that power your email marketing optimization program and will help you dramatically reduce your cost per acquisition and increase marketing ROI by tracking the performance of the various KPIs and metrics used for email marketing.

Attribution Modelling in Google Analytics and Beyond
Attribution modelling is the process of determining the most effective marketing channels for investment. This book has been written to help you implement attribution modelling. It will teach you how to leverage the knowledge of attribution modelling in order to allocate marketing budget and understand buying behaviour.

Attribution Modelling in Google Ads and Facebook
This book has been written to help you implement attribution modelling in Google Ads (Google AdWords) and Facebook. It will teach you, how to leverage the knowledge of attribution modelling in order to understand the customer purchasing journey and determine the most effective marketing channels for investment.

Himanshu Sharma

Digital Marketing Consultant and Founder of Optimizesmart.com

Himanshu helps business owners and marketing professionals in generating more sales and ROI by fixing their website tracking issues, helping them understand their true customers' purchase journey and helping them determine the most effective marketing channels for investment.

He has over 12 years of experience in digital analytics and digital marketing.

He was nominated for the Digital Analytics Association's Awards for Excellence. The Digital Analytics Association is a world-renowned not-for-profit association that helps organisations overcome the challenges of data acquisition and application.

He is the author of four best-selling books on analytics and conversion optimization:

error: Alert: Content is protected !!