Why is direct traffic increasing and how to fix it

Direct traffic is increasing day by day and if you don’t do anything about it now, then one day all you will see in your analytics reports will be direct traffic: little to no referral data, just direct traffic and ‘not provided’ keywords.

Following are the main reasons why your direct traffic is increasing:

 

#1 Your website is still using a non-secure connection (http://)

Every major website/browser/search engine has moved to a secure connection (https://) and if your website is still using HTTP then what will happen is not so distant future is that you will stop getting referral data. This is because by default HTTPS websites do not send referrer data to HTTP websites. 

You need to capture as much referral data as possible if you wish to continue to do meaningful analysis in the distant future. You should move your website to secure connection (https://) ASAP even if your website is not e-commerce and you are not collecting any sensitive data. In this way, you will be able to track referrals from HTTPS websites which you won’t be able to otherwise.

In order to move your website to a secure connection, you would need to get the SSL Certificate for your domain. You can get this certificate for free or you can purchase it. Cloudflare provides a free shared SSL certificate for WordPress websites. So you really have no excuse, not to move your website to secure connection.

 

#2 One or more URLs of your marketing campaigns are incorrectly tagged

Incorrectly tagged marketing campaigns can cause the referrer data to drop. And whenever a referrer is dropped Google Analytics is not able to determine the origin of the traffic source and report that traffic as direct traffic.

Use Google URL builders to tag campaign URLs correctly.

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#3 Not all URLs of your marketing campaigns are tagged

Sometimes a referrer is dropped because of technical reasons. And whenever a referrer is dropped Google Analytics is not able to determine the origin of the traffic source and report that traffic as direct traffic.

One effective way to ensure that the referrer is not dropped because of technical reasons is by tagging the URLs of your marketing campaigns with following campaign tracking parameters:

  • utm_source
  • utm_medium
  • utm_term
  • utm_content and
  • utm_campaign.

Following is an example of a tagged URL:

https://www.optimizesmart.com/google-analytics-cookies-ultimate-guide/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=article-promotion

Same URL when untagged will look like the one below

https://www.optimizesmart.com/google-analytics-cookies-ultimate-guide/

Make sure that you always tag the URLs of your marketing campaigns.

 

#4 Google Analytics tracking code is missing on one or more pages

Make sure all the web pages on your website have got a valid Google Analytics tracking code which fires on page load. Otherwise, traffic from your own web pages can be reported as either direct traffic or self-referral traffic by Google Analytics.

For example, consider the following scenario.

A user lands on your website via a web page (say web page A) which does not contain Google Analytics (GA) tracking code. Then he navigates to the web page (say web page B) which contains a valid GA tracking code.

Now if your domain name is in the referral exclusion list than the traffic from Web Page A to Web Page B will be reported as direct traffic by GA. If your domain name is not in the referral exclusion list than the traffic from Web Page A to Web Page B will be reported as self-referral traffic by GA. You should do a site-wide tag audit to identify all web pages with missing GA tracking code.

 

#5 Your website may be getting fake direct traffic from spambots

In the context of Google Analytics, fake traffic is defined as one or more fake hits sent to your GA property.

A ‘hit’ is that user interaction with your website that results in data being sent to your Google Analytics property.

A hit can be a ‘pageview’, ‘screenview’, ‘event’, ‘transaction’ etc. A fake hit is the one which is generated by a spambot instead of as a result of a living breathing human beings who interacted with your website. At present, it is possible to fake any GA hit.

What that means, a spammer can send fake direct traffic, fake referral traffic, fake organic traffic, fake traffic from social media, etc. A spammer can fake events, virtual pageviews, screen views, hostname, request URI, keywords and even transaction and item data

In the context of Google Analytics, there are two types of spambots:

  1. Spambots which visit websites
  2. Spambots which do not visit websites

Spambots that crawl your website can visit your website without sending referrer data. All such traffic will be reported as direct traffic by Google Analytics.

Spambots that do not visit your website can send fake hits to your GA property by abusing measurement protocol.

If you see a sudden and massive spike in direct traffic with a bounce rate close to 100% and an avg. session duration close to 0 seconds, then most probably your website has been attacked by a spam bot.

To learn more about, how to reduce or even completely remove spam/fake traffic in Google Analytics, read this article: Guide to removing referrer spam and fake traffic in Google Analytics.

 

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?


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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 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 which helps organisations overcome the challenges of data acquisition and application.

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

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