Direct Traffic Change – A Reason to Panic?

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We all remember our first time. We’re referring to, of course, that first time you logged into an Analytics screen and were met with a sharp rise or fall in Direct traffic. This probably scared the daylights out of you, especially if you’re a digital marketing agency that thrives on the promise of delivering data parity in the realm of Google Analytics tracking.

Yet before you respond to your client’s frantic email threatening to take their SEO services business elsewhere in Toronto, take a breath – things aren’t as bad as they seem, for you or for your panicked customer.

Direct’s Illusion

First thing’s first: Direct traffic is not as simple as counting how many visitors typed in a client’s URL, or clicked a bookmark, or accidentally pushed their mouse button when their cursor was hovering over a hyperlink. At least, it’s not that easy anymore. The truth is, there’s a ton of different channels that are tied to Direct, plenty of which come with a no-referrer string. This little wrinkle can cause a ton of fluctuation in ways that weren’t necessarily there before.

The Scourge of Social Media

If there’s one big culprit to the Direct numbers skewing with your client’s Analytics page, it’s social media. While hanging out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever social app du jour is cool, they’re no fun when looking at the other side of the page.

To put it bluntly, when referral traffic comes from the confines of a social media app, Analytics oftentimes doesn’t know how to make heads or tails of things. Add in stuff like sharing platforms and mobile searches coming from Androids, and the numbers really start going off the rails.

If you’re doing online or digital marketing, it’s important that you communicate this quirk with our customers to give them peace of mind. Of course, this doesn’t completely absolve you from thinking that a wild fluctuation in numbers may be cause for alarm.

How to Guard Yourself

DDoS attacks and other unpleasant stuff won’t be dissipating anytime soon. Because of this, if you see a sudden surge in Direct traffic, never assume that it’s just app-driven social traffic or the like pushing your numbers to and fro.

It could be the genesis of an attack. If you’re using a platform with widespread use such as WordPress, being mindful of this could be especially poignant. Even if you have a state-of-the-art security solution at the ready, it’s still important to remain diligent in your checking. Not doing so may at the very least unnecessarily skew your stats.

For instance, if you have an emergency firewall setting unnecessarily activated, traffic that would otherwise be categorized as Organic may erroneously get categorized as Direct. This particular issue is easily caught if you see a coinciding decline in Organic sessions.

However, why not nip this and other potential forms of traffic-skewing voodoo in the bud by proverbially dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s? Your clientele will greatly appreciate this extra step.

About the Author

Avatar for Joel Powell

Joel Powell

Joel Powell is a long time digital marketing blogger and writer on topics like SEO, internet marketing strategy, ppc management, media buying & social media marketing.

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