Web analytics are critical to the success of any business with an online presence. Digital marketing professionals and business managers rely on detailed, accurate tracking data to optimize campaigns, improve customer profiling and properly allocate spending. Understanding precisely how visitors are drawn to your website and exactly what actions they take while visiting is enormously important.

By examining behavioral patterns and user flows derived from robust analytics you can increase conversion rates and improve business results. But accurately measuring and analyzing website performance can be a challenge. The traffic statistics presented in web tracking tools like Google Analytics are notoriously unreliable. Web traffic is often incorrectly categorized and frequently misinterpreted. The root of the problem often lies with the poorly named “Direct Traffic” statistic.

Don’t be fooled by Direct Traffic Stats

If you use Google Analytics you are undoubtedly familiar with the Traffic Sources Overview report. You probably correctly believe “search engine” traffic represents visitors who found your site through a search engine and “referring site” traffic represents visitors who reached your site by clicking on a link on another site. And if you’re like many casual users you may think “direct traffic” refers to visitors who reached your site by typing your URL into a browser. Unfortunately that's not an accurate representation.

robust_analytics.jpgThe Google Analytics Traffic Sources Overview Report Shows How Visitors Reach Your Site

In reality, Direct Traffic is more of a catch-all statistic that captures all traffic for which a referrer was not specified. Direct Traffic can include traffic originating from secure sites, from mobile and social apps, from email programs like Outlook, or from links embedded into Word documents or PDFs.

To run effective campaigns that give you more robust analytics, you need to separate the wheat from the chaff. Campaign Tracking URLs let you precisely categorize traffic sources so you have better visibility into the dynamics of your website. By embedding campaign attribution tags into your URLs you can ensure referral traffic is properly classified and tracked. You’ll get a better handle on how visitors are finding your site and a better feel for how many are actually reaching it directly.

Campaign Tracking URLs Provide Valuable Insights into Web Dynamics

A tracking URL is simply a normal URL with a tracking token added to the end of it, like this:

utm_tracking_URL

You can use tools like Google’s URL builder to generate tracking URLs quickly and easily. Campaign tracking URLs let you identify exactly how visitors reached your site, for example via:

  • Google AdWords, Microsoft adCenter, Yahoo! Search Marketing
  • Banner and display ads
  • Emails and newsletters
  • Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Direct mail programs
  • Tradeshows and events

Campaign tracking tags are a quick and simple way to improve targeting, increase conversion rates, optimize spending and accelerate business results. You can examine the tracking data to gauge the success of campaigns, measure advertising effectiveness or analyze channel performance. By correlating campaign tracking attributes with performance metrics (conversions, bounces, revenue generated, etc.), you can identify key patterns and trends. By gathering business intelligence— understanding what sources, actions and events led to conversions, hence by providing robust analytics— you can fine-tune campaigns, optimize your site design and boost business results.

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