To sum up all of this information, even organic traffic, like direct traffic, has some gray areas. For the most part, though, organic traffic is driven by SEO. The better you are ranking for competitive keywords, the more organic traffic will result. Websites that consistently create content optimized for search will see a steady increase in organic search traffic and improved positioning in the search results. As a marketer, it is important to look at your keywords and high-ranking pages to identify new SEO opportunities each month.  
But now, that is all changing. We can still see all of that information ... sometimes. Things got a whole heck of a lot more complicated a little over a year ago, when Google introduced SSL encryption . What does that mean? It means Google started encrypting keyword data for anyone conducting a Google search while logged in to Google. So if you're logged in to, say, Gmail when you do a search, the keyword you used to arrive on a website is now encrypted, or hidden. So if that website drilled down into its organic search traffic source information, they'd see something like this:
Unfortunately, this particular client was fairly new, so as a result, their Moz campaign data wasn’t around during the high organic traffic times in 2015. However, if it was, a good place to start would be looking at the search visibility metric (as long as the primary keywords have stayed the same). If this metric has changed drastically over the years, it’s a good indicator that your organic rankings have slipped quite a bit.
If you publish whitepapers or offer downloadable PDF guides, for example, you should be tagging the embedded hyperlinks with UTM campaign parameters. You’d never even contemplate launching an email marketing campaign without campaign tracking (I hope), so why would you distribute any other kind of freebie without similarly tracking its success? In some ways this is even more important, since these kinds of downloadables often have a longevity not seen in a single email campaign. Here’s an example of a properly tagged URL which we would embed as a link:
BuzzFeed: Everyone knows the primary perpetrator of Clickbait and content appropriation on the web, but seemingly few people realize that anyone can write for them. You can sign up for a free account here, and simply start creating content on their site. There’s a lot of content that sees very little exposure on the site, but if something does catch on – perhaps because of your audience and your brand reputation – BuzzFeed will reach out to you and help by promoting it on the main sections of their site.
OMG and for the love of God, this is truly one amazing post! Not because of the content, because I have already commented on that somewhere in this mass of 200+ comments. the content is great...the fact that I continue to get emails from each and every comment ever made on this post since I commented is telling me that I need to remember to shut off the subscriptions eventually. You did one hell of a job on this post though...this really is a kick-ass list.
Hey Mavis, thanks for that :) I wrote down all the ideas from the comments as well so there are at least 65 ideas now, lol. I just wish we all had more time in a day to really work on all of them. I guess all that testing and tracking comes now so we can focus on the best for our blogs. But do I even need to say how much I hate testing and tracking.
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.
Mobile traffic: In the Groupon experiment mentioned above, Groupon found that both browser and device matter in web analytics’ ability to track organic traffic. Although desktops using common browsers saw a smaller impact from the test (10-20 percent), mobile devices saw a 50 percent drop in direct traffic when the site was de-indexed. In short, as mobile users grow, we are likely to see direct traffic rise even more from organic search traffic.
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