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.
Keywords research is a very important process for search engine optimization as it can tell you the exact phrases people are using to search on Google. Whenever you write a new blog post, you have to check the most popular keywords, but don’t be obsessed by the search volume. Sometimes, long tail keywords are more valuable, and you can rank for them more easily.
So I figured it's high time to break down what all those sources actually mean . Now, depending on what software you're using to measure all of these things, they may be bucketed slightly differently, but these definitions are pretty common across most tools you'll encounter. Make sure to double check on the finer points of some of them, but this should be a good starting point for you if you're new to this whole marketing measurement and analysis "thing."
Understanding the intention of your organic visitors is the heart of search engine optimization. Before you dive into finding keywords for your website or do any other SEO hack to optimize your site, it’s worth taking a moment to determine whether your website is driving the right traffic to your site and if it really delivers what your organic visitors want.
This is a breath of fresh air. Information Technology has been, for too long, plagued by those exploiting the ignorance of well intentioned people. The more good gen we have the better we will do and the better services will become. We put useful information on our web site for people wanting to start up renting out cottages. It is extensive and quite annoys our rivals who keep this sort of thing secret, only giving it out if you 'send for an information pack'. This, then, gives them the green light to pester you with sales calls and threatened sales visits. Generosity with information is the way forward. People remember it and associate it with a postive attude towards business relationships. Thank you for your help with these links.
So much traffic sources here, that I have not even come across. While there are the "most popular" ones, half of the sites you mentioned here are relatively new to me, so they all will be worth checking out. You are right about "forums" though, and although I am basically stuck with two (warrior and another that is unrelated), it does provide you some traffic provided as always, that you provide good feedback, help people, engage effectively with the community and of course, having a good and well structured signature :) Finally published :) Hopefully on your way to 300+ RTs, LOL

Bonus: WHAFF is a good tool to make traffic, and also a good tool to make money if you share your invite code in microworkers.com alike websites. Get WHAFF rewards on your abdroid device, and use my invite code: CG90779 to get your first $ 0.50. After getting at least $ 10.5 you can withdraw using your Scrill account and upload the balance to microworkers to make further campaigns
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
For reasons we’ve already discussed, traffic from bookmarks and dark social is an enormously valuable segment to analyze. These are likely to be some of your most loyal and engaged users, and it’s not uncommon to see a notably higher conversion rate for a clean direct channel compared to the site average. You should make the effort to get to know them.
No one wants to work harder than they have to – and why should they? Why pour five hours into Plan A when Plan B takes half the time and can be twice as effective? While that might seem like common sense, many companies waste a lot of time churning out new website content, when they should be revamping their existing blog posts and landing pages instead in order to increase organic traffic.
Regarding Link Detox, links it diagnoses as Toxic are generally fine as they're either not indexed by Google or have malware/viruses/etc., but I recommend a manual review of any diagnosed as Suspicious. I used it recently to get started cleaning up our backlinks and some legit sites and blogs were under Suspicious simply because they didn't have many links pointing to them.

The "Direct Session" dimension, not to be confused with the default channel grouping or source dimension, is something different. It can tell you if a session was genuinely from its reported campaign (reported as No), or if it was simply bucketed there due to the last non-direct click attribution model (reported as Yes). I didn't mention this dimension in the article because it has some flaws which can cause brain bending complexities, plus it goes a little beyond the scope of this article, which I tried to gear more towards marketers and non-expert GA users. It's certainly an interesting one, though.
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.
What if I read anymore information my brain will explode--so where do I go if I supply all the content, but am too lazy to read all of this. Who can I pay to run with this?--(Also-I know enough to do all the grunt work-just need some direction) I have a really fun project/marketing challenge, a moderate amount of coins, and other than today-usually a ton of commitment.  http://bdehaven.com

Fantastic post Tom! There's a lot of confusion on direct traffic to begin with. These are even more finer nuances that you have explained. I have a client whose top source of traffic is direct, and part of it is maybe due to the fact that they don't do any promotion, and it's mostly shared around internally within their team. But I just noticed that their URL is http and not https so this might be something for me to take back to the team. Thanks!
That's way easier to do when you understand what all the things you're measuring actually mean. The first place I always start when evaluating a business' marketing is figuring out where the heck all their site traffic, leads, and customers come from. But it occurred to me -- if you don't even know what all those channels mean or how they're bucketed as traffic sources to your website -- it's probably pretty hard for you to start that self-evaluation.
Cheers for sharing that thread, I'd not read it. I think most of the confusion here arises because of how standard GA reports work on a last non-direct click basis - if there's a previous campaign within timeout, that user will be attributed to that campaign, even if they're technically returning via direct. MCF reports are the exception, of course, given that they show *actual* direct.
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:

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.
Looking back at our lab site, we can see that Organic Search is doing well for us. However, if we put a little effort into social media, we’d probably see growth in that sector — and a bigger pie. We’ve got some strong referrals (and high quality links that improve our search presence), but if we put some work into building more of those links, we’d probably see more referral traffic and, again, a bigger pie. Should we add paid search? For this site, no. It’s part of our community service and has little revenue potential, so we wouldn’t see much ROI from ads.
The first is that it’s caused almost exclusively by users typing an address into their browser (or clicking on a bookmark). The second is that it’s a Bad Thing, not because it has any overt negative impact on your site’s performance, but rather because it’s somehow immune to further analysis. The prevailing attitude amongst digital marketers is that direct traffic is an unavoidable inconvenience; as a result, discussion of direct is typically limited to ways of attributing it to other channels, or side-stepping the issues associated with it.
I'm a IT Technician that has decided to take my knowledge of computer repair and maintenance online. So I made a blog about 2 months ago and I'm getting a small trickle of traffic a week. Most of those are from Yahoo! Answers. Twitter I just started using a few days ago and haven't got many followers yet. So It may not be the fastest methods but it's slowly working for me. I just need that surge of constant traffic flow. Thanks for the advice
Note: Google made a change a few years ago to how they track keywords and it has had a big impact on the discovery process. Before the change, Google would show which keywords consumers were using to find your website, making it easy to understand where and how your website was ranking. Google changed their tracking system so that any users who are logged into a Google account while searching will no longer have their keywords tracked as their Google activity remains encrypted. Due to this, when looking at Organic Traffic reports you will see (not provided) as a keyword throughout the reports – this often makes up over 90% of organic traffic and requires us to dig a bit more creatively to find what we need.
That helped explain some of the organic traffic loss, but knowing that this client had gone through a few website redesigns, I wanted to make sure that all redirects were done properly. Regardless of whether or not your traffic has changed, if you’ve recently done a website redesign where you’re changing URLs, it’s smart to look at your top organic landing pages from before the redesign and double check to make sure they’re redirecting to the correct pages.
Man I need to sleep after reading all this. Just thinking about doing all these is making me tired! Also reading all the stuff I'm *not* doing is embarrassing me. I've found that forum posting works great if you're really into the niche. If you're just there for the links it becomes a chore and people can tell. I've never thought about submitting images to Reddit. I see a lot of traffic coming in from Google Images, so I should probably give it a shot. This is a bad-ass post, Brankica!

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!
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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?
Looking at the keyword rankings and organic landing pages provided a little bit of insight into the organic traffic loss, but it was nothing definitive. Because of this, I moved to the on-page metrics for further clarity. As a disclaimer, when I talk about on-page metrics, I’m talking about bounce rate, page views, average page views per session, and time on site.
There are a few key pieces of information that we want to look at with Organic Traffic. The first piece of information that helps us frame the website performance is the total percentage of traffic that is organic traffic. These numbers will vary greatly based on your AdWords spend, how many email campaigns you send and many other factors. To view this figure, we want to go to the Acquisition section of your Analytics dashboard and then proceed to Channels.

Relying too much on one source of traffic is a risky strategy. A particular channel or strategy can be fantastic for generating traffic today, but it doesn’t mean it will stay the same tomorrow. Some sites lost out when Penguin started penalizing on certain SEO linking practices. Others lost out when Facebook decided to massively restrict organic reach. If your site relies exclusively on only one source of traffic, then algorithm changes can create some serious trouble for you. So be aware of the importance of diversifying and know the options available from different traffic sources.
With the exception of crude oil and Picassos, very few industries are “recession-proof” and experience an inelastic product demand. Look at how your competitors are faring, and see if they’re experiencing the same problems. While you should take Google Trends data with a grain of salt, looking at the bigger picture may help provide some clarity. I’d suggest taking this a step further by conducting trends research and reading industry reports.
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.

Organic is different. Matching keywords to user intent means you may be present in many searches. The user may find you consistently, and once they get to your site, they are more likely to stay. Organic users are still your best long-term customers. In my experience, they have lower bounce rates and more pages visited, and they are more likely to return.
Hi, Having read all this advice I can see its going to be a busy weekend! After 'Panda' many sites have collapsed but I have found that Squidoo has surprised me as it seems to be keeping popularity and as mentioned above, makes a little money as well as helps driving traffic. Hmmm...50 ideas....shall I start from the top or be different and work my way up from the end of the list?
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You might remember “Face Off” , a movie from ‘97 where Nicolas Cage is a terrorist and John Travolta is an FBI agent. And, as it happens in movies, they became obsessed with one another. Travolta needs information from Cage’s brother, so he undergoes an operation in which he gets Cage’s face; a few plot twists later and Cage has Travolta’s. They continue to pursue each other with new identities, the bad guy the good guy, the good guy the bad guy and so on and (almost) no one knew who is who. Dizzy yet?

Implementing structured data markup (such as that from schema.org) might seem like a one-time project, but that “set it and forget it” mentality can land you in hot water. You should be monitoring the appearance of your rich snippets on a regular basis to ensure they are pulling in the correct information. As you change the content on your website, this can alter the markup without warning.
If we are managing any SEO project for a long time, then it is our responsibility that we should analyze our track record and modify required changes in every 6-7 months according to organic traffics, keyword search volume, ranking position, landing page metrics, INSTEAD of comparison these points after loosing our ranking position and organic traffic.
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