Nearly every company with an online presence relies on web traffic to succeed. Whether you run your own website or work with a digital marketing company, the key to both value and growth is analyzing referral traffic. In other words, you need to know how people are getting to your website. 

You could spend your marketing dollar on direct email, search engine optimization, or an up-to-date social media strategy, but if you don’t know which of these efforts is driving the most traffic, you’re not optimizing your marketing budget.

Google Analytics is the most common way to track the traffic on your channels. However, there is one persistent blind spot in this method of analysis: direct traffic allocations. If Google can’t determine the source of your website traffic, it will categorize that visit to your page as “direct traffic.” The direct traffic category can’t provide you with information on how the user arrived at your website—it’s lost data that could be costing you time and money.

There are a few ways that this can happen.

Email Marketing Tools

Google Analytics defines direct traffic as “a page visit where there is no information about the referral source available or when the referring source or search term has been configured to be ignored.” For example, if someone types your website directly into the search bar or if they use a bookmark to access your page, the visit will count as a “direct traffic” hit.

This is known as an “organic” page visit and isn’t as uncommon as it may seem. Most people’s web browsers will remember previously visited sites and automatically populate them once the user begins typing. If your direct traffic is very high, this may be why.

Depending on your email marketing tool, successful circulation from your direct email campaigns will also be marked as “direct traffic.” Imagine how frustrating it would be to spend time and effort on a killer email campaign and then be left with very little idea of whether or not it worked. 

The good news is that there are tools like UTM codes that can help you obtain traffic information from your email campaigns. A UTM code uses text snippets at the end of your digital marketing URLs to help track where your traffic is coming from. There are software packages that can help you set up your UTM codes, or a digital marketing expert can also help you analyze the success of your email campaigns.

Social Media

Social media is the marketing tool of choice for most businesses today. It’s inexpensive, reliable, and helps keep you in touch with your customers in a more personal way than other forms of media. It might surprise you to learn that according to a recent study almost 80 percent of social media traffic is untraceable. Web professionals call this “dark social.”

Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and other sites account for a huge proportion of internet traffic. Users who click links from these social media applications will show up in your “direct traffic” category. 

Social media is the new “word of mouth” so it’s especially frustrating to have so little access to information about how customers are relating to your social media presence. As users become increasingly concerned with privacy online, it’s likely that these channels will become even more difficult to track.

If you want to know how your social media game is affecting your business, you have options. Digital advertising professionals (like the team at InnoVision) can help you get a handle on your investments by going beyond the Google Analytics defaults. There are dozens of tools that can help make dark social less mysterious.

Information is power and understanding the digital landscape is priceless for any business.

Missing the Big Picture

You can miss a lot of information with direct traffic since it’s the traffic that has no traceable referring website. What about everything that led to the consumer’s contact with your business? 

Let’s say you can see through your analytics that some of your direct traffic resulted in the purchase of merchandise from your website. You engage a professional who helps you understand that some of these sales were completed by customers who clicked a link on Twitter and arrived at your website ready to make a purchase. 

Without real-time analysis of your website and its users, you’re missing an important chunk of customer information. Did the user see your tweet and feel moved to buy your product straight away? Or was the purchase a result of interest built up over time?

Google organizes your channels by the referring point of contact. You may not be able to see how effective your other marketing efforts were in leading up to the decision to make a purchase.

What You Can Do

The digital marketing professionals at InnoVision can help you make these real-time assessments. They’ve spent time researching precisely how to make a digital marketing campaign work, regardless of the size, type, or style of your business. Most importantly, they use real-time optimization to help you get the most bang for your buck. They also use extensive analytics reporting that won’t leave you wondering where half of your web traffic is coming from.

An expert can oversee the full scope of your digital advertising efforts. When your analytics are customized, you’ll be better able to fine-tune your reputation and growth. Google Analytics is a great tool with a lot of options, but when you’re ready to take your business to the next level, it’s best to know as much as possible about where your marketing efforts are most effective. If you have questions about your business, don’t hesitate to contact one of InnoVision’s experts. Find out what real analytics and insight might look like for you.