Back to Basics: Direct, referral or organic - definitions straight from the source

Monday, August 10, 2009 | 4:23 PM

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In your Analytics reports, you'll see some of the same entries come up again and again in your data tables. In the last Back to Basics post, we learned about 'not set' entries -- this week we'll learn what it means when you see 'direct,' 'referral' and 'organic' under the Sources column in your reports.

  • (direct)[(none)] - Visitors who visited the site by typing the URL directly into their browser. 'Direct' can also refer to the visitors who clicked on the links from their bookmarks/favorites, untagged links within emails, or links from documents that don't include tracking variables (such as PDFs or Word documents).

  • [referral] - Visitors referred by links on other websites. (Links that have been tagged with campaign variables won't show up as [referral] unless they happen to have been tagged with utm_medium=referral. )

  • [organic] - Visitors referred by an unpaid search engine listing, e.g. a search.

Once you learn where the traffic to your site is coming from, you can start analyzing the information to make intelligent decisions for your website. For example, the Referring Sites report shows you which websites have been most effective at driving people to your site -- and which ones haven't been effective. Furthermore, if you have defined as goals the key pages you want visitors to see, you can see the percentage of visits from each referral during which the visitor saw these pages. (Just click Goals tab to see your conversion rates for each goal.)

To learn more about how to spot quality traffic from your Goals tab, please refer to this earlier Back to Basics post.