In this article, we’ll be taking a fresh look at direct traffic in modern Google Analytics. As well as exploring the myriad ways in which referrer data can be lost, we’ll look at some tools and tactics you can start using immediately to reduce levels of direct traffic in your reports. Finally, we’ll discover how advanced analysis and segmentation can unlock the mysteries of direct traffic and shed light on what might actually be your most valuable users.
Amy Gesenhues is Third Door Media's General Assignment Reporter, covering the latest news and updates for Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs.com, SoftwareCEO.com, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy's articles.
Brankica, aloha. Yet another great article. With the in-depth info and resources you have been giving us, I don't know how you have time for anything else. This is another one that will live on my computer. You mention several words/places that I have not seen before. Look forward to exploring. Off to tweet. Will be working on a 51 for you. Take good care, my friend. Aloha. Janet

You are giving some great advice to use for increasing readership and loyal followers. I am trying to include 2-3 sources from each of your list categories so that I have a balanced approach to increasing traffic. Right now I am learning Stumble Upon and Squido.com. Although I submit articles to Ezine, I think my keywords are not strong enough to get a good click through rate. I am getting better about writing articles with strong keywords now; sort of fell off the pace of that when I started using a lot of guest authors :( Thanks for your great insights and check list for increasing traffic, Brankica!
One of the things that can slow-bleed the traffic from your site is the quality (or lack thereof) of the content you publish on your site. Previous Google updates like Panda have already been released specifically to deal with the issue of low-quality content on websites. Long story short: Panda intended to stop sites with bad content from appearing in the search results.
A great way to break your web traffic without even noticing is through robots.txt. Indeed, the robots.txt file has long been debated among webmasters and it can be a strong tool when it is well written. Yet, the same robots.txt can really be a tool you can shoot yourself in the foot with. We’ve written an in-depth article on the critical mistakes that can ruin your traffic in another post. 

This, of course, if you do care about your organic traffic and your overall inbound marketing strategy and you don’t want to make a mess out of them. The truth is that Google has so many rules and algorithms for scoring a website and that the SERP is so volatile that it’s nearly impossible to predict which site will have the best organic traffic and from what exact reasons.


Let’s say that you are selling dog food. And most likely you will want the best traffic possible on the keyword “dog food”. Creating/building/earning all of your links with the same anchor text will get you in trouble. If you are having 600 links from which 400 use the anchor “dog food”, you might be facing a problem; it will surely raise a red flag to the search engines. And we all know what search engines do when they are getting these kinds of alarms: they begin applying penalties and move your websites so far from reach of the user that you will not be even listed in top 100. 
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Hi Brankica, wow what an extensive list. As a one-month old blogger this list is overwhelming so there were four things I have noted and will look into further are stumbleupon, digg, roundups and vark. I hope to implement them soon and will keep track of the results. As for the other sources, I will come back to this post to see what other sources to use next. I am curious to know from your experience, what are the Top 10 most effective traffic sources?
Direct traffic refers to traffic you receive to your website that doesn't come through any other channel. So, when you type www.hubspot.com into your search bar and hit 'Enter,' you're accessing HubSpot.com via direct traffic. If someone posted a link to www.hubspot.com on Facebook, however, and you clicked on that link, your visit would be bucketed in HubSpot.com's social media sources.
The strength of your link profile isn’t solely determined by how many sites link back to you – it can also be affected by your internal linking structure. When creating and publishing content, be sure to keep an eye out for opportunities for internal links. This not only helps with SEO, but also results in a better, more useful experience for the user – the cornerstone of increasing traffic to your website.
As we mentioned before, when someone finds your site via a link on a social network, they'll be bucketed under social media as a traffic source. This could include someone tweeting out a link, or it could include you posting a link to your Facebook page. If it's you doing the posting, you can also add a tracking token before posting to track those links as part of a larger campaign for you to analyze later!
Hi there Brankica, Super WOW! You have a bunch of quality, very applicable listing here. I believe being present on these sites would mean alot of traffic and sales because these are targeted and well renowned sites. I bet I need a lot of hardwork to be present to these sites. And this hardwork pays! Thanks for sharing this entry of yours. This has been the greatest list I've ever read so far. Good job. Cheers, Kira Permunian
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There are always high profile blogs in your industry, no matter what that industry is. It might be sites like Business Insider, Forbes, and Inc. It might be sites like Medium and Gawker. It might be sites like Search Engine Journal and QuickSprout. The fact is, every industry has its dominant forces, and as long as you’re not the dominant blog, you can use the dominant blogs as traffic sources for your own.
Using the same 2 steps, we can also filter the All Pages section and the Content Drilldown to explore further how our organic traffic is using the site. A focus on this Organic Traffic is important because this traffic is, in many cases, free traffic that your website is receiving. Focus on doubling down on your pages that perform well and working to identify any pages that aren’t getting the organic traffic they deserve.
If you don’t want your Google traffic dropped dramatically due to indexing and content pruning, we are going to list below the steps you need to take in order to successfully prune your own content. We’ve developed this subject in a previous blog post.  Yet, before doing so, we want to stress on the fact that it’s not easy to take the decision of removing indexed pages from the Google Index and, if handled improperly, it may go very wrong. Yet, at the end of the day,  you should keep the Google Index fresh with info that is worthwhile to be ranked and which helps your users. 

Before developing this subject further, indulge me to remind you that according to Google a robots.txt file is a file at the root of your site that indicates those parts of your site you don’t want accessed by search engine crawlers. And although there is plenty of documentation on this subject, there are still many ways you can suffer an organic search traffic drop. Below we are going to list two common yet critical mistakes when it comes to robots.txt. 
On the basis of this article alone, you should be given a Ph.D in internet traffic generation. Absolutely fantastic set of ideas & sources for traffic generation. I had taken a print of this article the first I read it and then took some serious action of some of the ideas that have mentioned here - flickr images, blog commenting, slideshare (this even resulted in some great business leads and closures), sites such as blog engage, blog interact, social media sources such as LinkedIn, forum participation etc. And they have done wonders to my sites. The fact that there are 319 comments here even as I write is testimony to the authenticity of the ideas presented here. Great article which will one day be a classic - if it is not already.
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Input your post’s url into SEMrush to discover the keywords that it’s already ranking for. Are you ranking just off the first page of the SERPs for any specific keywords that have a high search volume? Take a look at keywords which are ranking in positions 2-10 and try optimizing for these first — moving from third to first position for a term with high search volume can drastically increase organic traffic. Plus, it’s easier to bump a page up the SERPs when it’s already ranking for that keyword.
For our client: We were lucky enough to remove most from the prior agency outreach, we also went directly to many webmasters in which we wanted to remove links. We did not use the Disavow tool as it was not around when we completed this link cleanup, but we all know it has been said that if you are going to use the Disavow Tool to use it with caution.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest downsides to SEO is that Google is constantly making changes to their algorithm; they come out of nowhere, and they can drop your domain authority by 5, 10, even 15 points and it almost feels like you need to start optimizing all over again. It's frustrating, it's hard work and the results aren't always visible - but if you can get SEO right, it can truly be an amazing source of traffic.
Many bloggers don’t get time to maintain their blog frequency thus search engine bots also don’t like such blogs much. It is not that tough to maintain blog frequency, just need to be bit organized. But writing post frequently doesn’t mean that you write articles not related to your niche. Always write article related to your niche and take care about keywords.

Hey Ryan, thanks for including me, I will be over there to thank you as well :) I am glad you liked the post and definitely don't advice on getting into all of them at once, lol. I am the first one that would try all, but I learned that it is the wrong way to go in about anything. The best thing would be choosing one or two of these and tracking results. I learned that Flickr can take too much time for some types of blogs, while others will have great results with it. Depends on the niche a lot. But I know you will do the best thing, you always do! Thanks for the comment and helping me in the contest!
Incidentally, according to a June 2013 study by Chitika, 9 out of 10 searchers don't go beyond Google's first page of organic search results, a claim often cited by the search engine optimization (SEO) industry to justify optimizing websites for organic search. Organic SEO describes the use of certain strategies or tools to elevate a website's content in the "free" search results.
Thanks for the comment, I would not say it is impossible to create high quality backlinks from scratch without content, you just need to do a review on competitor backlinks and see if their are any easy targets. We have had some good luck in the education space acquiring links on the same pages as competitor from PR5+ edu sites. It all revolves around the outreach strategy in which you put in place.
At our agency, we work with sites of varying sizes, from very large to quite small, and recently, we have noticed a trend at the enterprise level. These sites aren’t relying as much on Google for traffic any more. Not only are they not relying on Google traffic, but also, the sites are getting less than 10 percent (or slightly more) of their organic traffic from the search giant.
11th point to me would be too look at your social media properties, work out how you can use them to assist your SEO strategy. I mean working on competitions via social channels to drive SEO benefit to your main site is great, working on re-doing your YouTube videos to assist the main site and also working on your content sharing strategy via these social sites back to the main site.
The time might have come when you want to secure your website and switch from HTTP to HTTPS. Easier said than done. A lot of issues might appear along the way that can screw up your hard-worked organic traffic. However, there is one thing that can really mess up things for your website while moving your site to https; and that is the canonical tag. 
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Referral traffic in Google Analytics can also include your social traffic or even your email visits. This is largely because there are different ways to track data and there are imperfections in the system, but it also depends on which reports you look at. For example, Acquisition> All channels> Referrals will include much of your social traffic, but the default All channels report does not include Social in your Referrals. The best solutions:

Hey Kim, thanks for thinking about the trees, lol. OK, let me think. First, yes it depends on the niche a lot. But I do need to say that it can also depend a lot on the creativity of a blogger. If you know Kiesha from We Blog Better, she is a really creative blogger. She once wrote a post called "What can bag ladies teach us about blogging". And of course, attached a photo of a bag lady. If it was a Flickr photo, you would go back and tell the author you used a photo on your post and tell him the post name. Everyone would be curious to see what the heck is all that about. I wrote about this Flickr tactics on Traffic Generation Cafe. Anyway, why am I mentioning Flickr? Because it would seem that it is the best place to get traffic if you have a photography blog, right? But in Kiesha's example, all you need is some creativity and it can work for every niche. I for example, am hardly using Quora. Everyone else is (well most of everyone, lol). But I am old school and use Yahoo Answers, that almost no one is using. So my results are great with YA. Answer sites require some time, but not more than commenting does and certainly less than guest posting does. And it is fresh traffic, not just bloggers that you connected with. But out of these all, I would focus on the first group, video/audio traffic sources, just because they are kinda up and coming compared to some others. If I can answer additional questions, feel free to add some, not sure if I answered what you needed me to :) Thanks so much for sharing this with your readers, I really appreciate it.
When you run an email marketing campaign, we hope you're including links in that email that lead recipients back to your website -- to read more content, convert, whatever. When you take a look at email marketing as a source of traffic, you'll be able to see how much traffic is sent to your website due to email marketing campaigns you've sent out. That's how we found out, for instance, that driving blog email subscriptions was extremely important to the growth of a business blog -- because many of the visits we receive each month come from subscribers who get pinged in their inboxes that a new blog post is published, prompting a click through to the post! Just be sure to include tracking tokens in the links of your email, otherwise the clicks won't be properly bucketed under the email marketing source.
Wonderful little article, lovely detailing and the possible sources of direct traffic which could lead to various positives and negatives to your overall SEO strategies. Direct traffic could be the prime conversion getter for your eCommerce website or could be a flaw in your website as a whole which looks like direct traffic has a correlation with organic traffic as well. As organic traffic increases, your overall direct traffic increases along with it. Does some type of bot activities lead to direct traffic as well?s

Hi, thanks for your comment. When you refer to incognito browsing, I think it's important to clarify that referrer data *is* passed between sites. Click on a link whilst in incognito, and the referrer header is passed as usual. The exception is if you're browsing normally, and then opt to open a specific link in incognito mode - this won't pass referrer data.


Hey Caroline, that is one of the great things, being included like that. Happened to me once, when my favorite blogger asked a question on her FB page and then included the testimonials in one of the pages. So not only did I get a dofollow link from a site that is Alexa less than 5.000 but I was so happy to be featured on her blog. Thanks for the awesome comment and I would love some feedback in a week or so, when the first results come in :)
Thanks for this handy info. I wasn't aware that Google owned Vark so I'm off to check it out. There is so much to learn about the best sites to use on the internet for traffic generation. I'm too frightened of spending more time surfing than actually writing for my own blogs that I probably don't do nearly enough 'looking'. Does anyone else have this time problem V's actual work time?
Brankica, Gooooood...ness! Where to start giving you props on this VERY well developed post. Absolutely brilliant. You have covered so much, so many areas and done it extremely well. Two items that grabbed me the most, as I have commented time and again about where I got my blogging start, and that is through freelance writing. So, I have always limited myself by using this form of media. Video / photo journalism are brilliant forms of communication, but I've always said, "Ah, that's for someone else..." And I noticed that you lightly touched on e-zines (article submissions). These will become viable again as they make adjustments. Anyway, I could go on forever. Again, you have done a fantastic job with this post. All the best, Bryan
I once subscribed to a thread on Site Sketch 101 and it was a game where there were supposed to be hundreds of comments. You can imagine how many e-mails I got in an hour! Nick (the blog author) was laughing at me, cause, like he said, that really was a major fail. I would just call it a dumb thing what I did over there, lol! But who would know there will be so many comments here anyway. I was hoping for some but did not expect this many. Well, now I do hope I will get even more :)
For our client: We monitored everything on a daily basis. If something came up, which needed to be fixed, we were quick to implement it with the development team at the business. We also rolled out numerous campaigns multiple times as they worked effectively the first time around in generating significant traffic so it was second nature to do the same thing twice.

Amber Kemmis is the VP of Client Services at SmartBug Media. Having a psychology background in the marketing world has its perks, especially with inbound marketing. My past studies in human behavior and psychology have led me to strongly believe that traditional ad marketing only turns prospects away, and advertising spend never puts the right message in front of the right person at the right time. Thus, resulting in wasted marketing efforts and investment. I'm determined to help each and every one of our clients attract and retain new customers in a delightful and helpful way that leads to sustainable revenue growth. Read more articles by Amber Kemmis.
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