If you’re a user of Google Analytics, your most important report, as a marketer, is probably the one on traffic acquisition, i.e. who sent your visitors. But one of the largest sources of traffic here will be the tremendously unhelpful source labelled “(direct)”. This covers all the visits to your site which came in without data identifying the visitor’s previous website.
Some of this traffic, you can – and indeed must – arrange to be labelled. For example, if you send out emails, any clickthroughs from the email will normally just fall into the “(direct)” category, because there was no previous website. But it’s straightforward to tag the links in the emails and start to count all the visitors, so why not do it?
Other sources of “(direct)” traffic include links from bookmarks (or “favourites”); people typing the full URL into their browser; and auto-fill. I’ll talk more about auto-fill tomorrow, but in the meantime, trying to identify our traffic better should be an ongoing job for all of us.