Tag Archives: Google Analytics

Is Direct Traffic Really Direct?

Google Analytics is the most common analytics platform out there. Because of this, GA, as it is affectionately known by those familiar with it, has had a leading role in identifying the types of traffic to a website and how they are measured. Google Analytics shows 5 primary types of channels of traffic: Direct, Social, Organic, Paid, and Referral. There can be other channels present (ie. email) if tracking has been established for these channels.

To reach the traffic report broken down by medium, you should follow this path in your Google Analytics account: Home>Acquisition>All Traffic>Channels. Google defines   Direct traffic as URLs that people either type in directly or reach via their browser bookmarks. GA relies on a code that is usually placed in the header of your website which tracks the referring site user clicked on to reach the site.Direct Traffic

We saw the amounts of Direct traffic increase dramatically in 2012/2013 as the use of mobile browsers and browser privacy settings became more prevalent. The reason for this is that GA began to place all the traffic for which the source could not be recognized under the “Direct” channel. The numbers on direct traffic for most of our clients are continuing to grow because:

  • The increased use of privacy and security plugins in users’ browsers, thus more traffic is stripped from the organic and referral channels to be placed in the Direct channel.
  • Tablet and mobile devices (ie. Safari in iOs6 and above) are not reporting the traffic source, especially for organic traffic, making mobile traffic difficult to track.  Studies show that iOs, despite losing significant market share to Android, still represents approximately 30% of the mobile browsers currently in service.
  • The current popularity of QR codes has added to direct traffic because QR scans show up in GA as Direct traffic.

How do you minimize this trend? Unfortunately, only partial solutions are currently available. Email marketing, social media posts, and paid campaigns can be tagged using Google Tag Manager and UTM codes, and Google Paid campaigns can easily be added to GA by following the path here: Admin>+create property>Google Ads Linking.

 Google Analytics will continue to create a challenge in identifying and reading between the lines to identify direct traffic v. organic traffic v. mobile traffic from the sources outlined here. Use common sense and follow the trend of direct traffic v. mobile traffic overview (path in GA Audience>Mobile>Overview) v. mobile traffic by device (path in GA Audience>Mobile>Devices) to see if the trends match. Over time, patterns will develop that will help to fully outline the success of organic placement in mobile SERP.

Eric Van Cleave is Co-CEO and Digital Director for Zenergy Works, a Santa Rosa, California Online Marketing and SEO firm.

What’s New for September 27, 2013 – Organic Search, Mobile Design, Click-To-Call

Google Not Provided Organic Search Queries

Good SEO has just become even more difficult. Google has secured ALL searches in their organic search query referrer data to go completely 100% “not provided.” In other words, Google Analytics can no longer track keyword data. General search term volume data can still be obtained from Google Webmaster Tools and Google Adwords, but the information necessary to “fine tune” and SEO campaign will be more difficult to obtain.

Google is saying that this is to protect the privacy of online users. Many think that this move simply means that Google has more data about the performance of your website than you do. SEO firms will continue to march on.

Organic Search Inquiries

Photo Credit: Guudmorning! via Compfight cc

Mobile Design Colors Matter

A well-designed website and online marketing presence has become a key part of a successful marketing plan for most, if not all, businesses. As the use of smartphones and tablets increases, a mobile presence is becoming more important. Most firms either employ responsive design or design a separate mobile site as a miniature, simplified version of their desktop site. There are some additional considerations when designing a successful mobile web site.

  1. Most companies want their mobile web design to copy their desktop design. It’s important that the sites are similar, but not identical. The mobile site should have its own identity.
  2. The color scheme for a desktop site may be able to get away with a bolder and more varied design than that of a mobile site because desktop computers and monitors have a greater capacity for loading and viewing design elements. Make sure that desktop design elements replicate well to a mobile site and do not create significant load time problems. Also be wary of background images that may impede loading or be visually confusing on a mobile site.

Color choices are becoming more critical because of the demands placed by numerous website viewing environments. Web designers will have to be careful to choose colors and designs that will lend themselves to a website that will create a consistent look and feel across both mobile and desktop environments.

Study: Majority of Mobile Callers are Ready to Buy

A new survey of smartphone users conducted by IPSOS on behalf of Google states that 61% of survey respondents say that “click-to-call is most important in the purchase phase of the shopping process.” And 70 percent of respondents said they had used the “call button” in Google search results. This means companies without click-to-call buttons, or at least listed phone numbers, will lose business to their competitors. Calling is an efficient way to get information from a business, especially from a mobile phone. This is especially critical in the buying phase, as illustrated by the chart below:

Mobile Click to CallMore detailed information on this study can be obtained here.

Bottom Line: Google continues to make Organic SEO more difficult and Adwords more accessible and easy to use. Mobile continues to be increasingly important, both in design and making sure the ease of use is optimized for a mobile website visitor. SEO firms will continue to raise their game to meet the challenges of the new environment.

Eric Van Cleave is a Partner in Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa, California SEO, Responsive Website Design, and Online Marketing Firm.

Measuring Positive User Experience

When planning our SEO Campaigns, we give great attention to keyword streams and traffic that is driven to a website. One of the most important, and often overlooked, aspects of good SEO is the User Experience on the website in question, and the website being structured to convert website visitors into customers. What are the indicators of Positive User Experience and how can they be measured in Google Analytics? Please see the graphics and illustrations from Google Analytics below.

  • Site Bounce Rate.  Google defines bounce rate as the percentage of customers that come to one page of the website and access no other pages during that visit.  Bounce rates vary widely, but a bounce rate of less than 50% is considered acceptable by most analysts.


  • Pages Per Visit. This number reflects how many pages per visit on average that users read when they come to your site. The higher this number, the more pages visitors are clicking on the site. The more compelling the content, the more pages that will be accessed by the visitors to the site.


  • Average Visit Duration. Again, the larger the time on the page, the more compelling the site content. Some sites have technical content that takes a long time to read and digest.  I would suggest that each site should be evaluated on Average Visit Duration trends for that site, not on an industry standard.  If the trend is down for a time, refresh content and make sure that your site content is what your clients need to know.


  • Conversions. You can set up goals or ecommerce conversions in Google Analytics. Goals would be sending a contact form, setting an appointment, clicking on a link to a special offer, subscribing to a newsletter, etc. Ecommerce goals evaluate sales. Again, be clear about the goals of your website and track them.  If your website content is compelling and answers the needs of potential buyers, these trends will continue to grow. Both Goals and Ecommerce reporting allow comparisons to past periods, like the example below.


  • Your Bottom Line.  The most important measure of your website’s success is the growth in income to your business.  Your Website Marketing is focused on certain products and potential customers.  When you see income growth in these areas, you can usually attribute some of this growth to the performance of  your website.

Bottom Line:  Create positive user experience using some of the following techniques:

  1.  Fresh and relevant content.
  2. Easy to follow navigation
  3. Internal site links that make related information easy to find.
  4. Page titles that compel a viewer to seek more information.
  5. Product/Picture displays that are easy to navigate and are attractive.
  6. Attractive, modern design to help with branding of company online.

Don’t be afraid to track your Google analytics and respond to needs for improved content.  Be cautious on changing too many features at once, because it will make tracking of the effects of those individual changes more difficult for those who cannot afford sophisticated A/B testing scenarios.  Strive for a Positive User Experience on your website, and in most cases, you will see the improvement in your bottom line, even if you do not have an ecommerce website.

Eric Van Cleave is a Partner in Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa, California based SEO, Website Design and Development and Online Marketing Firm.

“Not Provided” Hampering Analytics, But We Have the Solution

Many website owners have noticed that Google Analytics has shown an increased number of “Not Provided” status of searches, and for many this is the largest category of search in the Traffic Sources Overview listings.  Many browsers, including Firefox, have begun to use encryption to block tracking of the search data used to access websites.  Especially troubling is the use of encryption by Mobile Safari, whose website visitors show up as direct visitors, not only skewing the Google analytics for search versus direct but also hampering the ability to accurately track the true nature of mobile search. This Holiday Season, a lot of online traffic from iPhone users shifted into the “direct” bucket because a lot of people got new iPhones with iOS6 preloaded.

Google Analytics

Google Chrome is now joining the crowd and launching the Chrome 25 beta that uses encryption.  Many SEO firms fear that eventually, the percentage of Not Provided terms will reach 100%.

Google Chrome’s move to encrypted search will likely the average “Not Provided” searches on the average site from the average of 39% now to a higher number, but there are definitely methods in place to recapture some of the lost data.  Below are 3 tools that can be used to identify trends and new developments in search activity resulting from the Organic SEO efforts on your website.

Google Webmaster Tools has most of the lost data. Google webmaster tools will display the top 2,000 search terms for your site for the last 90 days from data from the aggregate storage of terms in the Google query logs. This works for 98% of all websites, and the 2% would be comprised of sites with huge web traffic because of the limitations of only the top 2,000 search terms. Most SEO Strategists will be able good sense of the trends and habits of the website users from this data.

Google Adwords has this data available as well. If you use paid search, you can get some of the same insights into the trends and behaviors of your online audience as you can from organic search data. You can get aggregate data from the general keyword search, but to get information regarding your website, you must have a Google Adwords campaign for your website.

Yahoo and Bing still deliver referrer information in most cases and can provide valuable information on search trends, albeit from a smaller search pool.

Bottom Line:  More Search Providers are moving to secure search terms and it’s likely that other search engines will follow due to competitive pressure. It is important to start using the alternate tools listed above to begin evaluating your search traffic and make this an integral part of your Organic SEO Strategy. Focus your plans on adopting other means of obtaining data as opposed to being frustrated about the data that has been lost.

Eric Van Cleave is a Partner in ZenergyWorks, A Santa Rosa, California based SEO, Online Marketing, and Website Development Firm.

Google Analytics “Not Provided” –Numbers are Growing

The numbers of “not provided” terms in Google Analytics are beginning to grow. Google began defaulting to an encrypted search for Google Searchers who are logged in to their approximately 12 months ago. “Not Provided” is what Google Analytics shows in cases where Google no longer reports search terms due to encryption.

A new study by Optify reports that 39% of search-related traffic from Google to web sites now has search terms withheld from reporting on Google Analytics.  The study was conducted over eleven months with 424 web sites, involving over 17 million visits and over 7 million referring keywords.  The study also found that 13% of companies see rates as high at 60% of terms being withheld, although upon further examination, most companies have “Not Provided” search terms that account for approximately 35% of their traffic as reported by Google Analytics.  For a full review of the study, please refer to the complete study.

Bottom Line:  As Google + becomes a more powerful tool for Google, the chart below confirms that more and more users are logging in the Google while they search.   This has 2 important implications for those marketing online in organic search:

  1.  Search results are influenced by past search behaviors, and may not be the “pure” results that you receive when not logged in to your Google Account.
  2. It will become more difficult to identify search terms that are growing in use if your analytics cannot track all of the search terms you are being found by.  It will become vital that SEO marketers become more proactive in their keyword research to get out in front of trends. 

Not Provided Google Analytics

Chart Courtesy of Optify

Eric Van Cleave is a Partner in Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa, California SEO, Online Marketing, and Website Development Firm.


Translate »