If you do any type of digital marketing, search engine optimization, or work with internet businesses, you’re going to need to know and understand direct traffic and organic traffic.
Direct traffic is when a user comes to your site by entering the URL in the address bar directly, such as by copy and pasting or from a saved bookmark.
Organic traffic is when a user finds their way to a website from a search engine result page (SERP) such as Google, Microsoft Search, or Yahoo!.
Too many marketers are failing to understand and analyze the data they get from their web traffic.
Data is one of the most influential factors when it comes to digital marketing and making sound strategic business decisions, so make sure you don’t fall into the same trap!
So which is better? – Direct Vs Organic Traffic
Well, I’m going to answer the question with a big “it depends” because both sources of traffic are important in their own ways and are used for measuring different things.
I’d argue Organic is more important because as you grow your website, you want people discovering your site from search results, as it is more ever-green.
Direct traffic can be good to measure some traditional marketing efforts, but for most website owners, it’s nowhere near as important as reading data from Organic traffic as it is a direct measurement of your SEO efforts.
Let me break this down in more detail.
Direct Traffic – Why is it important?
You might think to yourself “Hey, I have visitors saving my site and coming back regularly! Sweet!”
That may not always be the case (bubble burst).
It’s extremely unlikely that someone manually typed in an extremely long URL in to their address bar that is NOT your home page.
To Google, Direct traffic means Unknown source.
Here are some popular cases of Direct Traffic:
- Employees or collaborators who are regularly visiting your site
- Loyal customers bookmarking a significant page like “Store”
- You are linked from a eBook or PDF document
- You are linked from a mobile app because they are not browsers
- You are linked from an email message with no UTM parameters
- Someone who shared your link via text message
Advantages and Disadvantages of Direct Traffic
While direct traffic means your brand is growing (yay!), it becomes extremely difficult to attribute which marketing efforts are helping you gain that valuable traffic (nay!).
The most obvious upside is that people are either saving your pages as a high quality piece of content, or they’re entering your homepage as their URL because they recognize and remember your brand!
Downside is that if someone saw an ad of yours, decides they already recognize your brand and simply go to a saved bookmark of your home page, you cannot attribute the traffic from the ad.
As a result of this, you may be underestimating the success of your ads…again, nay.
At the end of the day, if your website is getting a healthy amount of total website traffic, a small amount of direct traffic is a-ok.
As a rule of thumb, 20% give or take would be fine.
But if your website is 30% or more direct traffic, then it usually means something is wrong and you should do some analysis on why it’s happening.
6 Ways To get Direct Traffic
1. Build an excellent user experience
You have two sites in front of you when you’re looking for a new Deep Dish Pizza recipe.
One is stuffed with sidebar ads, a pop-up video app, and a mid-content ad as well when talking about how long to bake the pizza.
The other one is simple, straight to the point, easy to read with headers, bullet points, and short sentences (Like this article!)
Which one would you save? Obviously the better user experience.
2. Make sure your URL is listed on your company’s non-digital marketing materials.
Sending out fliers? Put your website on it.
Putting up displays? Put your website on it.
Going to set up a booth at a convention?
…Which leads to your website!
You get it, put your URL on all non-digital marketing materials.
3. Get listed in physical Yellow Pages or old school phone books.
I know, we’re all about digital marketing strategies, but it can still be effective in driving some direct traffic to your site.
Especially if you’re in an industry that caters to an older demographic.
4. Run a print ad campaign in your local newspaper or magazines
Running a print ad may be perfect for an audience that may not be actively online.
It can be a very targeted marketing tactic if you implement it well.
A motorcycle parts shop ad on a motorcycle lifestyle magazine perhaps?
5. Print marketing campaigns like Billboards, bus benches, or bus sides
Many local businesses no longer do print ads because how much easier, cheaper, and more effective digital ads are.
However, if you want to achieve local dominance, it’s still worthwhile adding traditional forms of marketing alongside your digital efforts.
Being omnipresent will allow your brand to achieve more awareness and be top of mind.
Having a QR code that leads to your landing page for smart phone users is another tactic that can be layered with this strategy, instead of just URLs.
QR Codes on Your Business Cards
QR codes are an extremely effective way of allowing users to visit your site without remembering your URL.
It saves so much more time by scanning a QR code that takes you directly to their site, rather than looking up someone’s info from their business card and typing it in.
It allows you to stand out from the crowd if you’re in a business where cards are exchanged (I am not in one of those).
I haven’t even started talking about NFC tagged business cards yet.
Organic Traffic – Why is it important?
When it comes to Direct Vs Organic Traffic, direct traffic is nice to have, but it’s not the bread and butter of internet businesses.
Organic traffic is the heart of success of your website.
People use search engines to look for answers and solutions.
When Google gives them good answers with ease, they come back and use it again, hence, why Google is always improving their algorithms to make sure the end user has the best experience.
If you are able to deliver the best answer and the best solution for a user, Google will rank you higher.
Ranking higher means more clicks.
More clicks means more Organic Traffic.
More Organic Traffic means more $money$.
Customers also trust sites that are listed on the first page, rather than page 23.
“I’m looking for pet food, I’ll go with the store on Page 23” – Said no Google user ever.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Organic Traffic
Organic traffic is arguably the most valuable sources of traffic online.
Because once it’s setup, it’s evergreen and will be constantly ranking on Google.
By measuring the volume of Organic Traffic, you’re able to see your SEO efforts in action.
Many SEOs obsess over their Domain Authority, and other guidance metrics.
At the end of the day, your success as an SEO is only measured by one thing.
The biggest downside of organic traffic is that it takes time to setup, research, expertise, and proper execution to grow organic traffic.
You have very little control over it (unlike paid search, PPC).
Most local business owners lack the knowledge, expertise, and skillset to do it well.
6 Ways to Increase Organic Traffic
1. Optimize Your Website for search engines.
Google is extremely smart when it comes to reading your websites.
Their entire business model is based on this.
You simply have to nudge Google (and other web-crawlers) in the right direction.
By doing things like Meta descriptions, using proper header tags, having a proper site-map, and using proper menu items to help Google index you better.
2. Write high quality content that is compelling that people want to share
Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing.
If you want to rank for the query “best Italian restaurant in LA”, you can’t just use that keyword and copy and paste it 2000 times on a page.
How about writing articles related to your industry?
Food, Italy, and LA
If you have hundreds and hundreds of articles on your restaurant blog about tips for making food, travelling to Italy, quick Italian recipes, and awesome LA tourist spots…
Then you create a blog post for “Best Italian Restaurant in LA,” you will rank.
And your restaurant homepage will rank as well, along with your map pack (Map result from search).
Simply because your site is now such an authority on those topics, Google will trust you will give the best advice.
3. Develop Content
Although it might seem easier to write about your products and services, instead of writing compelling content, the latter will drive a lot more organic traffic.
With a quality content-first strategy and solid SEO strategy, you should see an increase in organic search traffic.
Releasing quality content relevant to your target audience should be your priority when it comes to SEO.
This way you will start to gain organic traffic and increased conversion rates.
Such as the example above for an Italian Restaurant in LA.
Once you’ve created your content, optimizing it for keywords can help you to attract organic traffic by attracting people who are likely to be looking for information about your topic.
4. You need to ensure that your website is really easy to navigate
A ranking factor for Google is how long before a user bounces (closes window or goes back to the SERP).
If a user cannot find the information that they’re looking for on your site, they will leave and keep searching.
That is sending signals to Google that their query was not answered.
That’s why high quality content is super important.
5. Mobile Friendly
We now live in a mobile first world.
Google’s migration to GA4 is proof of that.
Google Analytics 4 is a mobile first analytics platform because Google knows most search users are on mobile.
If your site loads slow on mobile, content is wonky, or even not responsive for mobile…you will definitely be hit with lower rankings.
Design with a mobile first approach and Google will reward you. (All hail our tech overlords)
6. Good Reviews
If you have a local business, having 5 star reviews–and lots of them are a HUGE factor when it comes to ranking.
ORM (Online reputation management) services can help you optimize your business listings and reviews.
If you want to do it yourself, there are plenty of software to help you with it.
Even when people leave reviews on places like Yelp, Facebook, or even Yellow Pages, GOOGLE KNOWS!
If you have an online business, Trustpilot.com is a great place to get customer reviews.
Maybe offer an incentive to leave a review like a discount code.
Notable Traffic Sources Breakdown
So now you know Direct vs Organic Traffic, let’s get you caught up on other sources of traffic.
Web analytics tools such as Google Analytics can tell you exactly how a user found your webpage by analyzing the various web signals.
It’s way smarter than what most consumers think.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the primary sources of traffic:
- Organic Search: When a user discovers your page from a search engine like google
- Paid Search (CPC): When a user discovers your page through a search ad such as Google Ads
- Direct: When a user discovers your page by entering the URL directly into the browser bar or from a non-browser source like a PDF document.
- Referral: When a user discovers your page from another URL on the web
- Organic Social: When a user discovers your page from a social media app such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
- Paid Social: When a user discovers your page from a social media ad.
How can I Track Direct and Organic Traffic?
The best way to track your website traffic is using a web analytics tool such as Google Analytics.
Once you setup a free account, simply add the tracking tags to your website and you’re good to go.
If you use WordPress, you can use their WordPress plugin and integrate all of your Google tools such as Analytics, Tag Manager, and Optimize all together.
I hope this helped you gain a better understanding of direct vs organic traffic.
It will help you make better decisions when it comes to your digital marketing efforts.