There isn’t much of a disparity between direct traffic and organic traffic. While the former refers to the visits you naturally direct to your site via search engines, the latter case refers to the number of visits that make to your site by entering your site’s URL in their browser or by clicking through a bookmarked link or favourited site.
But that’s just as basic as the difference between the two can be; and as a digital marketer looking to develop a deeper understanding or insight on the mechanisation and undercurrents of the digital landscape, this explanation doesn’t exactly paint a clear picture of the two.
Your concern shouldn’t be solely with the direct and organic traffic you attract. But with all of your traffic sources. For most analytics platforms, including Google Analytics, there’s an algorithm that they utilise and a flow chart that’s grounded on referral websites or a set of other parameters within your site’s URL for determining the exact source of your site’s traffic.
Types of traffic, based on the source:
As the name suggests, referral traffic refers to the kind of traffic you get from another site, through a backlink. What happens is that a potential visitor while browsing through a given site, comes across your site’s link and decides to check it up.
Social Media Traffic
Again, judging from the name, this is the kind of visits you receive via social media — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Quora, Pinterest and Reddit to name a few. Mostly, you attract this kind of traffic after sharing a post link to your social media page or group, or by setting up a social media ad.
Organic traffic is the kind of traffic you direct to your site via search engines, excluding paid traffic. You simply work on content marketing in the hopes of your site being indexed and ranked favourably in the SERPs.
This refers to the traffic you direct to your site by setting up Google AdWords or paid ads with any other search engine. Usually, as a web owner, you get charged when an online visitor clicks on a paid link in the SERPs.
Again, based on the name, this is the traffic emanating from your email campaigns.
This encompasses the visits you get when someone enters your site’s URL in the URL bar or when they access your site via a bookmark or as a favourited site.
Any visit that you get that doesn’t fit in any of the above categories is considered ‘other.’
That’s a list of all the traffic sources. But for today, let’s dive into the specifics of the two major sources of your online traffic.
As already defined, direct traffic encompasses any visit you get that comes with no referring site. The visit doesn’t have to follow a link placed on another site or any given platform to get to your site, including search engines, blogs, social networks or another website.
What they do instead is enter your site’s link into the URL bar or click on a link they had bookmarked to be directed to your site. But then again, that’s just a two dimensional definition that doesn’t necessarily paint the real picture of this traffic source in the clear.
In this view, the definition held much weight back then, until 2014 when Groupon decided to run a test that involved de-indexing their site for approximately six hours. It’s through this simple experiment that they came to find out that what was widely considered direct traffic was actually organic traffic – given de-indexing the site to temporarily stop organic traffic from coming in also saw to it that direct traffic plummeted.
It’s for this reason that web owners decided to dig deeper into the possible causes of their direct traffic.
So where exactly does direct traffic come from:
Your In-house Team and Employees
There’s a fair chance that the bulk of the visitors your site is attracting are nothing but your in-house team or employees checking out the site; and they’re all counted as visits because you haven’t filtered out their IP address in the analytics. To avoid the confusion, it’s important that you learn to filter every single one of your company’s IP from the analytics.
If your site has a customer portal that customers have to log in, then that could be the chief source of your direct traffic. To be realistic about the traffic you, it’s important that you create a different source category for this kind of traffic in the web analytics.
Actual Direct Traffic
This accounts for all the traffic you get from the people who directly land to your site by entering your site’s URL into their browser or via a bookmark. This is often the case when you run a popular brand.
Email from Certain Email Clients
Certain email clients such as outlook and thunderbird choose to hide referring information in the analytics. That means the clicks you get via the email client will be interpreted as direct traffic by search engine analytics.
In Groupon’s experiment, desktop traffic experienced a smaller tanking in direct traffic when the site was de-indexed compared to mobile traffic. Goes to show that mobile devices have numerous way of reserving a link that a user can directly click through and land on your site should they decide to check your site again after the first visit.
Click on Desktop Software and Mobile Apps
Desktop software and mobile apps such as Skype don’t pass on referring data. Meaning the traffic emanating through them gets to be interpreted as direct traffic.
Secure and Non-secure Links
Any traffic passing from a secure to a non-secure site doesn’t pass on referring data and is as such interpreted as direct traffic.
Taking all this into consideration, it’s safe to say that actual direct traffic account for an insignificant amount of traffic you site attracts.
Organic traffic is derived from search engines, including Google, Yahoo and Bing. This type of traffic excludes any form of paid traffic. But that’s NOT to say this type of traffic is NOT in any way affected by paid ads – whether positive or negative.
A great majority of online users trust search engines for information. They believe search engines have the ability to dig out for any kind of information and display to them, hence the common phrase ‘just Google it.’
And just like direct traffic, organic traffic has lots of grey areas that blur the explanation we gave earlier on.
For all we know, the biggest source of organic traffic is SEO. The better your content happens to be ranked on a list of specific keywords, the more organic traffic your site will be able to drive.
Ana as a marketer looking to cash in from organic traffic, it’s important that you learn to leverage content marketing as you keep an eye on new SEO opportunities.
It’s a Wrap
As you can see, the differences between the two types of traffic overlap at so many points. When you look at the difference at a lighter note, everything is black-and-white clear. But when you zone into the specifics, the line distinguishing the two gets even more blurry the more you sink in.
That being said, remember to contact MediaOne today for free SEO or direct traffic consultation just in case you find yourself stuck on how to drive traffic from either of the two sources.