I was forwarded a link to www.crazyegg.com today. I have always followed Marketing Sherpa heatmap research and use the built in click map tracking in Google Analytics, but I have never really tested heatmap tracking on my sites. It looks interesting but not worth paying for until I see the benefits. So is it worth it? Has anyone tried it? What insights has heatmap tracking shown you?
While looking around for a free heatmap tracking service I came across www.fusestats.com. This is more of a full feature reporting service but they do offer a free subscription level that may produce some actionable info. So I am testing fusestats on this site for the next week to see what happens. Look for a followup on heatmap tracking once I start getting some data recorded.
Recently I was asked to look over a friend’s company web traffic for “fun”. I was happy to do it out of curiosity and to be helpful. They asked me to review the traffic because they were unsure of what they were seeing and after reviewing it myself I am not sure what I am looking at either.
While poking through the stats I noticed that 75% of their traffic was direct. As in 3 out of 4 of their website visitors landed on the site by punching in the domain perfectly. This seemed odd so I compared it to some other sites I have managed that are similar in size and industry and marketing efforts. What I saw was that typically each site has a more distributed source list of referral sources. Typically 40-45% percent of referral traffic coming from Search Engines, 25-35 % direct traffic and the remainder from other websites.
Digging deeper I noticed that the bounce rate for the site was quite high. (On average 75% or greater)
Hmm, 75% of the traffic is direct and 75% or more of the visitors leave immediately regardless of the page they entered the site on. Something is not right here.
To gather more information I looked at what sites out there were referring traffic. I found one or two paid referrals / purchased a banner advertisement which was expected, but beyond that I found hundreds of random websites driving traffic to this website. So I wanted to see what these sites were. They were clearly spam sites, porn sites and sites displaying nothing but Google ad sense.
So here is the questionable data:
- 75% of all traffic is direct (this is not a big internet brand but a small local business with basic SEO in place)
- 75% or greater bounce rate on every page
- The slim search engine traffic it does receive is only coming from MSN (This is strange considering the small market share of MSN compared to Google or Yahoo.)
- Overall Traffic, in terms of visit session is up about 60% this year.
Of course the client is happy to see the higher traffic numbers but based on what we are seeing is this traffic real?
My initial thoughts are that one of the following is happening:
- This is a poor linking strategy / scam – meant to boost website traffic figures but without regard for traffic quality.
- The reporting is set up incorrectly- This is possible and it would explain the high numbers for direct traffic and the high bounce rate. However, it does not explain the odd referring websites
- This is site is a true anomaly – receiving a lot of direct traffic from people that did not want to visit the site and leave immediately.
Based on what I have seen in the reporting and what I know of the company managing this site, I believe this is a paid linking strategy boosting traffic number but harming the clients brand and understanding of their own efforts.
If anyone has any similar experiences let me know. Have you seen website traffic referral distributions like this before? Are these stats telling tale signs of paid linking? Can anyone explain how a site indexed in all major search engines only receives traffic from MSN?