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Direct Traffic to Search Traffic Ratio and Panda

 10:33 am on Apr 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Taking an Occam's Razor approach to Panda, because regardless of the complexity (or lack of it) to the update, there is probably one overarching principle behind it:

- Content farms generally punch above their weight when it comes to SEO (that after all, is there business model), meaning a very skewed direct:search ratio
- Usable and trustworthy websites usually have a pretty healthy direct:search ratio. It's pretty hard to build a healthy direct % with a horrible website (unless you are craigslist :) )

Expanding on this, someone in another thread suggested that Google probably can't work out the source of articles anymore. Direct:search seems to me like it could be a pretty good signal for working this out. For example, ticket A lives on 100 ticket websites, but there is one site with a high direct:search ratio (Ticketmaster); that site is probably the source.

Extrapolating this to the sites "that do not fit the mold", a lot of them were seriously punching above their weight on SEO compared to branded search:



Digitaltrends was getting almost 100k visits a day, with almost none of that being direct


This would also explain sites like prnewswire, which would have very little direct traffic / branded search.



 4:14 pm on Apr 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thought this myself and testing my own sites (about 15 in total), but the results did not back up the hypothesis.


 7:17 pm on Apr 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

What does "punching above their weight" mean, I guess would be my question. Are you saying that only big, corporate sites are allowed to do well in search?

I guess I don't quite get what you mean.


 7:26 pm on Apr 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I understood it as meaning a very high proportion of search traffic compared to other types of visits.

To look a bit deeper into this question, information disclosed by Demand Media [reuters.com] today states that only 28% of their revenue comes from Google search visits. Does that cast a shadow over the idea?


 7:29 pm on Apr 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Assuming they're being honest. They might just be trying to make themselves look better.

Tedster what would you say is an average, healthy ratio of direct traffic to search traffic?


 8:03 pm on Apr 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

It is really dependent on the type of website or business. I love it when search is under half of the total traffic sources, but for some businesses that's just not achievable.


 10:14 pm on Apr 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure what it is for ecommerce sites, but I've always thought for content sites if it's 60% or less you're doing really good.

Not sure what others have found.

It has seemed to me recently that people are less and less inclined to actually bookmark sites and go directly to them, even if they like them. Which is why I wonder how relevant it really is anymore to worry about that ratio at all. It used to mean a lot, but does it still?


 10:21 pm on Apr 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

Maybe direct traffic + navigational searches would be a more meaningful number.


 10:21 pm on Apr 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's somewhat difficult to gauge real direct traffic, as a lot of people use the installed Google, Yahoo or other SE bar on their browser to find a site. One of the most popular search phrases for my site is my site's name.

According to my stats program, direct traffic is about 28% of total referrals, and Google is at 26% (down from 28%, which was down from 44% pre-Panda).


 11:10 pm on Apr 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

only 28% of their revenue comes from Google search visits

Properties like cracked.com probably has tons of direct, regular visitors. eHow, not as much.


 8:38 am on Apr 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

What does "punching above their weight" mean, I guess would be my question.

By this I meant sites that primarily exist to serve search engines, not users. A site designed to serve users should, by definition, have a decent % of direct and branded search traffic. I would imagine ehow is at 90%+ search. Joel Spolsky posted on his blog a while back that StackOverflow was at 80%+ just Google (can't find the post now, might have been told by his VCs to pull it!). SO is a good example of a site that combines high search with an actual brand and community.


 9:08 am on Apr 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

I will just chip in here: I had 75 % search traffic, managed to bring it down to 65 % over February and March. And then, suddenly Panda!

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