Organic Traffic vs Direct Traffic: Which is Better for You?

Gabrielle Hass
Nayo Shell
Published: Jan 15, 2022
Last Updated:
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Google Analytics and other marketing tools make it easier to track traffic. You can determine if your traffic source is from a major search engine, social media platform, or the result of a recent marketing campaign. Two prominent types of traffic are direct and organic traffic.

art of cars driving on a road

Organic traffic tells you where the visitors came from while direct traffic does not. The following post explains the key differences between organic traffic vs direct traffic and how to obtain both.

What Is Organic Traffic?

organic traffic is when you receive traffic from search engine results to your site. This is traffic earned through your positioning on search engines, not through paid search ads. Organic traffic is typically acquired through creating search engine optimized content.

<div class="tip">A strong SEO campaign is the key to earning organic traffic. Learn how we can optimize your content through our SEO services.</div>

Advantages and Disadvantages of Organic Traffic

Organic is a valuable source of traffic for any website owner. By using an analytics tool, you can see what pages receive organic traffic. This can help guide your content and SEO strategy, allowing you to earn more visits to your site naturally. By having a single page rank at the top of any search platform, you can earn several visitors a month without any additional work.

The return on investment for posts that gain organic traffic can be significant. Blog posts can receive hundreds or even thousands of views organically, without additional work being done to them.

The disadvantage of organic traffic is a lack of control. This type of traffic can only be earned through search engine results. However, there is no way of knowing when your page ranks for a certain keyword or what position it'll have. Some pages can sit at the top of search engines for months, while others fluctuate in ranking rapidly.

How Does Organic Traffic Work?

A user types a query or a collection of keywords and the search engine delivers the results it considers the most relevant. You receive organic traffic when your site shows up in the results and is clicked by a potential customer.

Organic traffic is simple, but that doesn't mean it's always easy. To bring in organic traffic, you need to design your site so your target audience can easily stumble across it. This takes time, effort, and care.

How to Increase Organic Traffic

You can increase your organic traffic by creating conditions that encourage people to see your site. Techniques include:

  • SEO: Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of refining your website so that it shows up higher in search results. The SEO process involves targeting keywords your audience uses to encourage search engines to include your content in their results for those searches. Organic search traffic is some of the most valuable traffic available.
  • Content Marketing: A more specific form of SEO, content marketing involves writing targeted content that answers questions your audience searches regularly. Well-written content gives search engines more material to consider and potentially present to your target audience. It also provides value to your audience who may begin to visit your site directly or share your content with friends and colleagues.
  • Social Media: Sites like Twitter and Facebook are invaluable for organic traffic. You can create free accounts for your brand and share your content there. If your social media presence is helpful and interesting, people may follow your accounts and share your posts, spreading your message and winning organic clicks.
  • Affiliate Partnerships: Affiliates are partners who receive a small commission for sending visitors to your site to make a purchase. The affiliate talks about your offerings and links to your site. If their audience appreciates your brand, they'll follow the link, and you'll receive traffic that identifies the affiliate as the referrer.

Organic traffic is always good, but it takes time to build up. Developing new campaigns and refining old ones can help you bring in new organic clicks across your preferred platforms.

What Is Direct Traffic?

Direct traffic is when you receive visitors to your site by them clicking a direct link to your website or typing in the URL directly. The key difference between direct and organic traffic is that you don't know where your direct traffic visitors come from.

This type of traffic can be difficult for marketers. There are various ways to get direct traffic to your site, but it can be difficult to gain data from the visitors. This lack of data makes it hard to determine what marketing campaigns are most effective.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Direct Traffic

There's one crucial bright side to direct traffic: it's a sign people are visiting your site because they care about your brand. If people are visiting through bookmarks or by directly typing the URL into their browser, they're one of your most loyal visitors.

The downside is just as obvious, though. You have no way to prove how the visitor got to your site with direct traffic. You can't find out what triggered them to visit, and you can't use that data to improve your marketing efforts.

For example, if the visitor sees one of your ads and clicks their bookmark to get to your site, you can't connect the ad to their visit. As a result, you'll underestimate the success of different marketing campaigns if you have too much direct traffic. Similarly, if an email glitch or HTTPS error miscategorizes your traffic, you might receive massive amounts of direct traffic and have no way to sort it out.

How Does Direct Traffic Work?

Direct traffic consists of visitors that your site doesn't record a referral link for. A referral link is a site that sends you a visitor usually because the visitor clicked on a link. There are a few significant reasons why your site couldn't record a referrer:

  • A person typing the URL directly into the search bar
  • Visitors coming to your site through bookmarks
  • Someone clicked a link to your site through email

It can also come from people visiting your site from an HTTPS website if your site is not HTTPS-secure.

How to Decrease Direct Traffic

Decreasing direct traffic isn't about lowering the number of visitors your website receives. Instead, it's about successfully tracking how visitors come to your site and why.

  • Make sure your site is configured correctly. If your site uses "HTTP" instead of "HTTPS," it will never capture the source of referral traffic, and it will automatically label it all direct traffic. Get your site a third-party SSL certificate, and these visitors will once again be categorized correctly.
  • Fix bad redirects. If your website has recently undergone updates, your page redirects might be broken and fail to recognize how people got to the redirected page. That can lead your site to record visitors as direct traffic. Fix your redirects, and you'll fix the issue.
  • Look for spikes in direct traffic after major email campaigns. For some reason, services like Outlook and Skype don't provide websites with referral sources. If you get a significant spike in direct traffic after sending an email campaign, the traffic is likely coming from email clicks.
  • Run ads on search engines that encourage clicks. If you're worried about people visiting directly instead of clicking on ads, give them a reason to do so otherwise. Offer discounts or unique content in your ads that aren't readily accessible from your homepage. You'll win more ad clicks instead of direct traffic.

Once you've gotten rid of reasons why direct visits might be miscategorized, stop worrying about it. Having some is a sign that people genuinely appreciate your site and visit it unprompted.

Organic Traffic vs Direct Traffic: Which is Best?

Overall, organic traffic is better for your marketing efforts. The extra information you collect is essential for monitoring how well your advertising campaigns work and differentiating between different platforms.

With direct traffic, you don't know where your visitors are coming from, which makes it difficult to capitalize on the sites that are sending you the most visitors. Repairing any certification and redirect problems with your website can help you reduce the amount of miscategorized direct traffic you see. Once that's done, you can enjoy accurate data about your audience. That includes appreciating the visitors who like your site so much that they visit it directly.


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