Digital Marketing Stories SEO

New Findings: This Type of Direct Traffic Is Unquestionably Organic

I’m Adam Dince, Director of Earned Media at Deluxe. I lead a team of marketers that is primarily focused on our non-paid marketing channels.

Why Understanding Earned Media ROI Matters in the First Place

In all honesty, while I believe that paid advertising is highly effective when done right, I’m a bigger believer that earned media provides the best long-term ROI.

However, as you well know, it’s hard to tie top of funnel organic content and organic social to revenue. And channels that drive the most revenue usually get the biggest share of the marketing budget.

This is why SEO is so important to my team. Whether you call yourself a Web Presence Manager, Inbound Marketer, Earned Media Marketer—whatever, SEO reporting is key to funding other non-paid marketing strategies.

Whether you call yourself a Web Presence Manager, Inbound Marketer, Earned Media Marketer—whatever, SEO reporting is key to funding other non-paid marketing strategies.

When I started building the earned media team at Deluxe in 2012, my first objective was to form a world-class SEO practice. After major e-Commerce site overhauls and full SEO strategy implementation across multiple owned properties, we experienced massive boosts in rankings, organic search performance and assisted attribution.

The Puzzle: One eCommerce Site Wasn’t Delivering Expected Organic Traffic & Revenue Contribution Percentage

However, one of our core eCommerce Sites was still lagging. While we hit our traffic and revenue forecasts, our percent of total traffic and revenue barely cinched forward. I couldn’t understand, why after throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the obstacles we had, we didn’t see the traffic and revenue contribution % lift I’d expected. We:

  • Remediated most of our technical debt
  • Optimized our web page templates
  • Broke out our I/A to be more relevant for the keywords we were targeting
  • Implemented Schema.org where applicable
  • Optimized our content
  • Improved internal linking
  • Worked seamlessly across teams to optimize our UX, creative and tech

And so much more.

I couldn’t understand, why after throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the obstacles we had, we didn’t see the traffic and revenue lift I’d expected.

I analyzed the performance data inside and out.  I ran every report, tested every hypothesis and still no silver bullet. I spoke with industry friends who said that the numbers didn’t make sense and that we should be doing much better than we were. Then came along the Groupon study that discovered 60 percent of their direct traffic was actually organic search.

What We Found: First Visit Direct Traffic to Long URLs Must Be Organic

I’d often asked the question, “Why is our direct traffic and revenue so high?” And I think everyone agreed that the direct traffic numbers looked seriously questionable. And thanks to the Groupon study, I had a few new ideas to test.

I’d often asked the question, “Why is our direct traffic and revenue so high?” And I think everyone agreed that the direct traffic numbers looked seriously questionable.

While looking at direct traffic to our long URLs, we discovered that in many cases, over 60% of direct traffic came from first time visits.

direct traffic

That begged two questions:

  1. How would so many visitors be able to bookmark a page without ever visiting it before? It’s impossible.
  2. En masse, how would first time visitors know exact non-homepage URLs to type in without ever visiting our site before? Not so impossible. The answer could be that longer URLs were included in direct mail (either as long URLs or vanities).

I checked with our DM team and validated that:

  • None of the page visits reported as first time direct traffic to long URLs were included in offline campaigns (boy that was a mouthful).
  • Long URLs reported as first time direct traffic were indexed and ranking in Google search results.

After weeks of research, we concluded that at a minimum, first time visit direct traffic to long URLs can only be organic. Moving forward, we’ll be writing rules within Adobe that allow us to accurately report organic search traffic.

After weeks of research, we concluded that at a minimum, first time visit direct traffic to long URLs can only be organic.

I’m pretty confident that we’re receiving additional direct traffic that should be classified as organic search and am working with our analytics team to figure out how to crack that nut.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about what you’ve found in your research.

 

If you liked this article, check out: Update: Organic Search Is Actually Responsible for 64% of Your Web Traffic.

Banner image source: edgesustainability.com