Dec 12, 2013
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I have a customer that has 5 locations.

At the beginning of engagement, I changed his google plus profiles so that they all pointed directly to the location pages (they were pointing to the home page).

In the days after I did that, Organic and Direct traffic jumped to these pages (and traffic to the home page fell) - the gain to the location pages exceeded the loss.

There is no way users are typing these in directly. They are long urls, and the end in .php, and with each location 150-300 visits per month from "direct" I just don't see that there could be that much bookmarking going on.

My feeling is, for whatever reason, Google is counting a good deal of this organic traffic as direct (because I changed when I changed the Google places link, the direct traffic jumped).

Am I wrong on this? I really don't want to mislead the client, but, from what I see, traffic as a result of my SEO efforts is up, but, for some reason I have to count direct and Organic to see it. I feel like I'm cheating a bit by including Direct in there.
Oct 25, 2013
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If you haven't seen it, there was an experiment Groupon did two years ago that was interesting. Obviously that '60%' number just applied to Groupon, so you can't take that and run with it, but still interesting.

I've also heard that having a site on http can skew your direct traffic numbers more than if your site is on https, since it's that transfer from one protocol to the other where information's lost, and Google searches are on https. I've been too busy with other stuff to update any of my local client's sites to https and run some testing of my own though (and it's not super high on my list either), so take that with a grain of salt.

I've also seen some companies (public storage, most notably) that use goal URLs for all their locations. Just google public storage, and click on the website. It'll take you to a page that has (among other pieces of tracking variables) PID=PSLocalSearch. I don't know enough about the heavy technical stuff to know if there's any risks to using URLs with dynamic variables in them on a GMB page, but still interesting.

The long and short of it though... if that's all that you did before the direct traffic spike, I wouldn't feel too bad about making my case, though I'd check out the insight graphs for before and after your work too, hopefully you've been saving that data somewhere since Google only gives you a 90 day tally, makes it hard to compare.
Oct 25, 2013
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Thanks again Dan, second time today you've shared something I'll definitely be using going forward. I hadn't seen that article before, I feel a little safer testing that now. Public Storage ranks really well across the board so I knew it was viable, but there were a few pieces I was missing, so glad I hadn't jumped in before seeing that.
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