Tracking branded traffic is a useful activity for any business. Branded traffic refers to users who seek out your business by name, either through historical familiarity or perhaps the translation of offline marketing into online activity. Thus, it can measure the effectiveness of offline advertising and the growth of a loyal custom user base, with the help of return rate metrics.
In some cases, these visits show up as "direct traffic" in analytics. This means the visit came in without a referring URL in the CGI headers. Clicking a link from a site to visit another site will pass the preceding site's URL in this referral section of the HTTP headers, that part of web "clicks" that's invisible to the average user. When a user types in a URL directly, or clicks a bookmark, this field is empty. Alas, the utility of an empty referrer at indicating branded traffic has degraded over the years as firewall products begin to block the passing of the referrer due to potential privacy concerns.
Another phenomena has worked to decrease the comprehensiveness of direct traffic as a measure of branded search. The pervasiveness and ease of user of internet search engine in modern browsers has led users to simplify the task of reaching a destination down to one tool: the search box. While it's theoretically more efficient to enter the URL in the url bar, many users simply use their default search engine for keywords and URL entry (est. 5% of search engine queries from Teevan, Adar, Jones, & Potts. SIGIR 2007) because the simplicity of one operation overrides the efficiency gain of a dedicate search box.
The large number of domain squatters with mis-spelling and typos of popular destinations producing generally useless experiences make the search engines popularity skew to error correction on URLs an especially nice change to a cybersquatter's shop of trinkets.
So I recommend creating a Google Analytics advanced segment that captures both direct traffic and inbound search referrals with query terms that uniquely identify your business. For some names, this may not be viable, but for most you can capture a large percent of the direct navigation. For instance, myweddingfavors.com gets branded searches for "my wedding favors" and "myweddingfavors.com". The my term is the key signal that the query is branded.
- 85% of iBlipper branded traffic is type-in and other components of direct
- As it should be, no referring sites are included in iblipper branded
- Over a third of search engine traffic is branded.