Organic Search is visitors who reach you by Googling or using another search engine which Google recognizes as a real search engine — mostly Bing and its second string, Yahoo. People using other search engines like DuckDuckGo or sites which are now commonly used as search engines but which have other purposes, like Pinterest, will show up in Referral traffic and in the case of Pinterest, in Social. If you have a good, well-optimized website, Organic Search will usually be your most frequent source. At our lab site, we do nothing to encourage other sources, so Organic Search is absolutely the top.
One of the things that makes social media a bit more attractive than search engine optimization is that you get to maintain a bit more control over your success. You can always find new ways of improving your strategy and you can learn from your mistakes and your wins so that you can improve your traffic in the future. The same can't really be said about SEO - although it's very clear what not to do, it's not always as clear exactly what strategies can help you improve your ranking.
Hey Michael, thanks so much for the comment. After this post, I decided to revamp my traffic generation strategy and work more on the existing sources and work a bit more on the ones I was not using that much. I saw results almost from the first day. This list is good because of the diversity of the ideas, cause if one thing doesn't work for you, there has to be another one that will sky rocket your stats :)
We have been using AccuRanker for the past few months and the team have so much good stuff to say about it. Not only do the ranking seem accurate, there are a lot of added features within the platform making reporting on the data very effective. With any new tool, there are some recommendations of features that we have put forward and AccuRanker have been very receptive to these ideas and we are hopeful that they will be implemented in the near future.
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!
Lee Wilson is head of enterprise SEO at Vertical Leap and has been leading digital marketing teams since the early 2000’s. He has headed up the SEO department for a top 10 leading search and digital agency (Vertical Leap) from 2010 to present. In 2016, he had his first solely authored industry book published (Tactical SEO – the theory and practice of search marketing).
If your referrers have moved to HTTPS and you’re stuck on HTTP, you really ought to consider migrating to HTTPS. Doing so (and updating your backlinks to point to HTTPS URLs) will bring back any referrer data which is being stripped from cross-protocol traffic. SSL certificates can now be obtained for free thanks to automated authorities like LetsEncrypt, but that’s not to say you should neglect to explore the potentially-significant SEO implications of site migrations. Remember, HTTPS and HTTP/2 are the future of the web.
Now, there's one more little group that might fall into direct traffic -- it's something you might have heard about as "Dark Social" if you've been staying up to date on, well, dark social as a referral source. Basically, dark social is what some people are calling the social site traffic that most analytics programs can't capture since it lacks referral data, but is coming from things like emails and instant messengers (which, technically, are social mechanisms). Often, this unidentifiable traffic -- anything without a referring URL -- is also bucketed into direct traffic. Now, as BuzzFeed so eloquently puts it, "all 'dark social' traffic is direct traffic, but not all direct traffic is dark social."
Let’s say you wish to block all URLs that have the PDF. extension. If you write in your robots.txt a line that looks like this: User-agent: Googlebot Disallow: /*.pdf$. The sign “$” from the end basically tells bots that only URLs ending in PDF shouldn’t be crawled while any other URL containing “PDF” should be. I know it might sound complicated, yet the moral of this story is that a simple misused symbol can break your marketing strategy along with your organic traffic. Below you can find a list with the correct robotx.txt wildcard matches and, as long as you keep count of it, you should be on the safe side of website’s traffic.
Love the five different area of investigation that you went over, great way to analyze and diagnosis the issue. I would also definitely agree doing a rankings comparison between the two time frames, and not only check what your Google ranking is, but also track the search volume for your keywords to see if it has fluctuated or gone down. Google Trends is a great tool for this as well, as one of your keywords that your ranking for may have just lost popularity online.
I would also advise to continue doing what works. If something you have rolled out generates great traffic and links bring out a new version of the content, for example the 2012 version worked effectively bring out the 2013 version of the content. Another effective strategy is to make the piece of content into an evergreen article which you add to over time so it is always up to date.
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.