Direct Traffic In CRMs – Do You Have An Attribution Problem?

Published by Madhurima Chatterjee on

Updated on 14th March, 2024


What is the one metric that business owners truly understand when it comes to measuring the success of their digital marketing campaigns? It is website traffic. That’s right! Amongst the analytics elements that most marketers track as reference points for performance, traffic tops that list.


And naturally, what businesses tend to do once the traffic pours in is to identify where it is coming from. Knowing where your traffic comes from not only tells you which campaigns are working but also provides important information to your sales reps.


However, many websites see a high volume of direct traffic, more so than all other channels. Most B2B marketers log unprecedented levels of direct traffic on CRM systems, and it is essentially false data. Why? This is because these numbers do not reveal the true sources of high-value traffic, i.e., leads. Without resolving this issue, B2B businesses and their go-to-market teams are unaware of how they are truly producing leads. The data is non-reliable, so any attempt at scaling is more of a justification for optimism than deliberate action.


While a high volume of direct traffic may indicate that a lot of potential customers are directly searching for your brand on search engines and social media, there are a lot of other things at stake when we talk about direct traffic. Inadequacies in website traffic monitoring brought about by direct traffic may, in fact, lead to single-touch attribution, which can otherwise derail your digital marketing strategies—and that is just one of its shortcomings. In this blog, we will discuss direct traffic in CRMs and how you can use a third-party attribution tool to attribute traffic better and generate accurate analytics reports.


But first, what is direct traffic?


Image Source: Hubspot


What is Direct Traffic?

Google defines direct traffic as traffic where “no referral information is available, such as when a user arrives on your site or app directly. These include users who enter a URL in their web browser or click a link from a bookmark, mobile app, or offline document.”


In short, direct traffic is a source of website traffic that has not been linked to any of the basic channels named under Google Analytics. This includes Organic, Referrals, Social, Email, Paid, and more. There could be several reasons for this, such as the user entering a URL straight into the search bar, issues with the tracking code on incoming traffic, or referral sources that are purposefully configured to be ignored.


The issue with this strategy is that Direct has turned into a repository for traffic that Google is unable to categorize. Additionally, any marketer can relate to the enormous direct stats that suggest the power of other brand activity but never really materializes into leads in pipelines.


In the next section, we will provide you with a breakdown of the usual traffic sources you can see in your CRM.


Image Source: Perill



Understanding Traffic Sources in a CRM

Depending on the analytics software you are using, these definitions vary slightly; however, if this is your first time doing marketing analysis, this list of traffic sources can act as a good starting point to understand what you should measure.


1. Organic Traffic

Organic traffic refers to the visitors who find your website through a Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft Bing search. As you expand your search engine optimization activities, this channel is crucial to monitor since it will demonstrate the effectiveness of your SEO initiatives.


You can find organic traffic volume outlined in the “Sources” table if you are using Google Analytics. However, with Google encrypting keywords with SSL encryption to protect user privacy, you are not able to determine which specific keyword a visitor searched for before visiting your website.


Regardless, organic traffic still needs to be attributed as many CRMs or platforms would incorrectly mark the traffic as ‘Direct’.


2. Referral Traffic

Referral traffic refers to the visitors who arrive on your website by clicking a link from another website or a social media channel. They shouldn’t be coming from another social media platform or search engine. There could be several pages on a referring domain that connect to your website.


Marketers like referral traffic because it shows them how many people are visiting their websites from reliable external links, connected to your website for one specific purpose—Google results. To view a list of the top websites referring traffic to your website, expand the referrals traffic channel in the “Sources” tab of Google Analytics or any other analytics platform. Once you have located such websites, you can think about strengthening your relationship with them or engaging in marketing initiatives that will increase the amount of traffic those websites send your way.



3. Social Media Traffic

Social media traffic includes visitors from widely-used social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. When you share a link to your website on a social media platform, or when others share your content, users within their networks can click on these links to access your site.


Effective social media traffic can be pivotal to your marketing success since it allows you to discern the quality of leads each channel is generating. For a B2B business, you might discover that LinkedIn is attracting more high-value prospects compared to Instagram. You can also evaluate the bounce rate of visitors arriving from social media traffic channels and gain insights into their content preferences by analyzing the time spent on different pages of your site.


While it’s relatively easy to determine which social media platforms are driving traffic, pinpointing the exact posts or stories responsible for this traffic is considerably more challenging. To address this attribution challenge, it is advisable to use UTM parameters. For instance, for company page posts, you can simply append the URL with UTM_source=pagepost.


Armed with this data, you and your marketing team will be better equipped to make decisions about which channels to prioritize, what type of content to create for each channel, and whether sponsored advertisements are necessary to increase traffic.



4. Email Marketing

When recipients of these emails click on links contained within the messages and are directed to your website, this traffic is classified as Email Marketing traffic. This usually comprises of visitors who come to your site by clicking on a link in one of your email campaigns, outreach emails, or even an email signature—which could be from one-on-one email correspondence from one of your team members.


Again, most marketers tag their email links with UTM parameters for proper attribution. For example, the October product wrap up newsletter can be marked with UTM_source=Octoberwrap.


Gauging email traffic is a great way to figure out how effective your email marketing campaigns are, in serving your marketing objectives. To tap into email marketing traffic numbers, you should attach tracking tokens to your website link so that when someone clicks on them, the clicks are correctly attributed to the email marketing source.



5. Paid Search Traffic

Finally, we have paid search traffic. Paid search traffic is a source channel that shows the number of visits to your website that resulted from clicking on one of your sponsored search advertisement campaigns (such as Google Ads) that appeared after a relevant search on Google, Bing, or any other search network is displayed by this channel source.


Much like email marketing traffic as a source, you need to attach tracking links to your paid ads to guarantee that your paid ad search traffic is properly bucketed.



Is All Direct Traffic Actually Direct, Or Is There an Attribution Problem?

Not all direct traffic is actually direct. While some of your traffic is indeed labeled as ‘direct,’ issues such as faulty tracking, disabled cookies, and incorrect or incomplete UTM mapping can lead to unusually high direct traffic numbers. Additionally, traffic from dark social sources (like messaging apps), redirects, browser bookmarks, and mobile apps may also be categorized as direct traffic.


However, the core problem often goes unnoticed — attribution.


Most popular CRMs, such as HubSpot, Salesforce, and Pipedrive, typically operate on a single-touch attribution model or rely on your analytics or webform tool. The source field can register automatically through on-site tracking or through the tool’s integration from which it fetches leads. In many cases, the setup is not optimized for in-depth referrer and source tracking. When tracking fails, the source is marked as ‘direct.’


Even if attribution is successful, another issue arises. While this process is effective for evaluating the overall contribution of marketing to closed sales deals, the single-touch attribution model segregates marketing and sales data, providing marketers with insufficient data to understand how their broader marketing initiatives influence the consumer journey.


This limitation can be particularly detrimental to B2B businesses, where the customer is not a single individual but an account involving multiple company employees who collectively decide whether to purchase a product or service. The numerous touchpoints throughout the B2B buyer experience are too extensive for the single-touch model to analyze. It only considers the first touchpoint by the first individual, while the purchase decision may involve many others, including those who are involved but not initially connected to the account.


The key to accelerating growth is the ability to identify the campaigns and activities that generate income and scale them. Without the right information, you may end up scaling the wrong campaigns, which can ultimately hinder business growth and result in wasted resources.


This is where a multi-touch attribution model becomes crucial. It takes into account all touchpoints involving key stakeholders throughout the entire B2B customer journey. With multi-touch attribution, marketers can evaluate the impact of every event across all channels, rather than relying solely on the sporadic ‘original source’ chosen by the CRM. Multi-touch attribution empowers data-driven marketers to implement attribution across the pipeline, uncover the lifetime value of advertisements, assess content ROI, benchmark growth, estimate revenue, and plan which initiatives to scale next. It provides a comprehensive understanding of the lengthy and intricate customer journeys in the B2B realm.



Do You Have Too Much Direct Traffic?

Direct traffic is inevitable. It is not possible for you to track every interaction. For example, if a website links to you and marks it as “noreferrer”, it will show up as direct traffic.


However, an abnormally high direct traffic percentage is not good news. It can expose flaws with your UTM tags, incorrect configuration, broken links, and other mistakes that screw up source attribution. Or, you can simply be getting bad traffic.


Dirrect traffic has two most posible causes:


Bot Traffic: Malicious bots, scrapers, or automated tools may be the cause of an abrupt increase in direct traffic. This can lead to a distortion in analytics data without producing real engagement. If you are wondering why people are visiting your website but are not doing anything else, this might be the reason.


Lack of attribution: When appropriate tracking measures aren’t in place, direct traffic can occasionally conceal the true sources of traffic, making it impossible to determine the true impact of campaigns and misattributing marketing efforts.


Therefore, if your website is registering high direct traffic percentage, it is time for you to either evaluate traffic sources or set up better attribution.



Fixing Direct Traffic Using UTM Parameters

As mentioned earlier, one of the major reasons for unrealistically high direct traffic volume is incorrect or missing UTM parameters for your campaigns or referral links. But what are UTM parameters?


UTM parameters are tracking tags appended to URLs in order to monitor and assess the performance of marketing initiatives. They offer information on the source, channel, and particular campaign that are bringing visitors to a website. Given below is an overview of the different UTM parameters required for tracking traffic from different sources.


Organic Traffic: For tracking organic search traffic, you only need the UTM “source” and “medium” parameters. Since the referring domain is a search engine and not a specific social media or paid ad, these UTM parameters are perfect to accurately track organic search traffic. Many analytics tools like Google Analytics or Salespanel for example can naturally track these referrers without parameters.


Referral Traffic: For tracking referral traffic, you only need the UTM “medium” parameter that tracks what type of traffic the visitor originated from. No other parameter is required since the referring domain is neither a search engine nor a social media site. You can play around with UTM parameters and add a specific UTM “source” to annotate a particular campaign.


Social Media Traffic: For tracking traffic from organic social media posts, you can use three UTM parameters, namely, “utm_source”, “utm_medium”, and “utm_content”. There can be two scenarios: first, the “utm_medium” parameter can be “social” and the “utm_source” is the name of the social media networking site, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., while second, the “utm_medium” parameter can be “social” while the referring domain can be a social media site.


Email Marketing: For tracking traffic from email campaigns, you need three UTM parameters, namely the “utm_source”, “utm_medium”, and “utm_campaign”, parameters. These are not mandatory and depend on your requirements. For example, if you just want to know if a lead is from newsletters, you can simply mark “utm_source” as newsletter.


Paid Search and Paid Social: For tracking traffic from paid search ads, here are the scenarios —

  • the “source” parameter should contain the words, “ppc”, “cpc”, or “adword”
  • the “utm_source”, “utm_medium”, or “utm_campaign” parameter must be present and the referring domain would be
  • the “utm_source”, “utm_medium”, or “utm_campaign” parameter must be present and contain the word “ppc”, “cpc”, or “adword”


Coming to paid social media ads, you can either use a “utm_medium” parameter containing the word “paid”, “ppc”, or “cpc”, followed by the “utm_source” parameter containing the name of the social media networking site, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., or the “utm_medium” parameter containing the words, “paid”, “ppc”, or “cpc”, while the referring domain is a social media site, or the “utm_source” or “utm_medium” parameter containing the word, “paidsocial”.


You can also use the keyword UTM parameter to find out which keyword a visitor clicked on to land up on your website. The format is utm_term.


While UTM parameters can help you a long way in solving the issues with high direct traffic on your site, you can further bolster it using a proper attribution platform. Using one in conjunction with your CRM can help you monitor all of the visitors coming to your website to identify them accurately and attribute them to the right channels.


Tools like Salespanel can help!



A Few Other Things To Do To Reduce Direct Traffic

Fix Redirects

When redirects are set up, you can configure your server to pass on UTM parameters or, if necessary, remove the redirect. You should talk about this with your developers and ensure that redirects are set up correctly.


To fix your problem with redirects, you may —


Audit Your Redirects: Conduct a thorough audit of all redirects on your website using tools like Screaming Frog or Google Search Console to identify any unnecessary or incorrect redirects.


Update External Links: Reach out to external websites linking to your content and request them to update their links to the correct URLs.


Implement 301 Redirects: Use 301 redirects only when necessary, such as when permanently moving content or restructuring URLs. These redirects are set up to avoid chains or loops that can confuse users and search engines.


Employ First-Party Marketing Attribution Tracking

Tracking each and every marketing touchpoint allows you to have a complete view of the entire customer journey. Tools like Salespanel record every step of your website visitors. Salespanel tracks a prospect’s discovery source, page visits, email openings, page length, etc. Not to mention, all of this information is gathered in real-time for quick data processing.


Using first-party tracking, you can reduce your direct traffic numbers as well as properly attribute revenue to each of your marketing channels.


Migrate to HTTPS

HTTP websites are typically non-secure, and when your website visitor is redirected from an HTTPS site to an HTTP site, the referrer data does not pass on, leading to the source traffic being registered under “Direct”. Migrating to HTTPS can have a huge impact on tracking your referral data.


Avoid Vanity URLs with no UTMN tags

Vanity URLs can be good for tracking the impact of certain campaigns, but it is vital that the redirects take your users to a good site with a good user experience. Redirecting your vanity URLs to a site page with appropriate tags helps Google Analytics track those sessions correctly.

Block Internal Traffic

It should go without saying, but your internal team will be frequently accessing your website for work-related purposes. A side effect of this will be enhanced numbers of your direct website traffic. It is, therefore, important to take this into account from the start.



Use Salespanel To Attribute Traffic and Sync the Information to CRM

If you have reached this point in the article, we hope your questions about Direct Traffic and how you can mitigate some attribution errors have been solved. Before we end, we want you to introduce you to Salespanel, a tool that can help with better lead tracking and attribution.


Salespanel tracks the entire B2B customer journey and has been designed to handle both multi-channel and multi-domain attribution. This means that it compiles user interactions from multiple touchpoints, such as your email campaigns, social media posts, display ads, and more into a single customer view (SCV), which can help you score and classify leads and add eligible prospects to your CRM. Let’s see how this works by taking the example of the Salespanel integration with Pipedrive. It integrates with tools like Pipedrive and Salesforce to reinforce your lead information automatically enrich your CRM records with accurate lead source and other data points.


Salespanel also tracks lead activities such as web visits, visit duration, custom actions, and UTM parameters. Your sales team doesn’t need to exit their CRM to use the information to comprehend lead intent.



Additionally, Salespanel adheres to regulatory restrictions from the GDPR and is prepared for the cookie-less future. The tool does not use any third-party cookies and does not do any cross-site tracking, thereby, providing businesses full control of their first-party data.

The tool can generate personalized reports based on relevant data displayed on its interactive dashboards. To find high-performing campaigns, you can use these reports to identify marketing-qualified leads and track them back to the original marketing channel. They can be prepared based on lead sources, keywords, UTM parameters, and other criteria. For the benefit of team collaboration or higher management executives, these reports can also be exported or shared.


Check out Salespanel with its 14-day free trial today!

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Categories: Marketing