If you stay on top of your aesthetic practice’s website traffic in Google Analytics, you probably have focused on your organic or paid traffic. That makes sense, as it behooves aesthetic and medical business owners and practice managers to track any investment in SEO or AdWords. But what about direct traffic? What exactly is that? How can I grow it? We’ll dive into Direct traffic in great detail in this article.
Direct traffic is fairly self-explanatory; it’s web traffic that goes directly to your domain name without using a search engine, clicking an ad, or navigating from a 3rd party website. These visitors know how you are and almost assuredly have visited your website before. The one instance where you might get new visitors to come to your website directly is if you run TV or radio ads and you have an easy domain name to remember. Print ads could also drive direct visitors; however, I’d strongly suggest driving non-digital traffic to a specific landing page to better track them.
If you’re not investing in TV, radio, or print, who are these Direct visitors?
They’re a mixture of former patients, current patients, and (very) interested prospects. Direct traffic is the best representation of your brand strength and word-of-mouth marketing, in part because no other traffic source can accurately measure growth in brand awareness. However, it’s more than that. Direct traffic is also influenced by patient retention, a crucial component of any cosmetic dermatology or medical spa practice.
Patient retention helps convert a $500 Botox patient into a patient who spends $10k or more over the course of the next 5-10 years. How? You start by blowing them away with an excellent experience; a friendly staff, an effective treatment; and timely follow up. Digital marketing can help you with your follow up, with an immediate email survey, a timely call from a staff member to check on the patient, effective email communication (if the patient opted in, of course), and social media posts. These are all “touch points” that keep your aesthetic practice top-of-mind.
The more effective your touch points are the more repeat patients you’ll get, and these folks often times return to your website directly.
My Direct traffic has dropped, what does that mean?
You might have noticed periods of time where Direct traffic drops, sometimes dramatically. Before you get concerned, it’s important to gather as much information as you can.
- Did the Direct traffic drop occur during a small timeframe? If so, are you still seeing a drop if you expand the date range?
- Did your Organic traffic also drop during these timeframes you’re evaluating?
- Did you run any email campaigns in the date ranges you’re evaluating? Did you make sure that these were tracked correctly? If you fail to set up proper tracking then your traffic from email campaigns will likely get counted as Direct. Depending on your list size and click-rates, incorrectly marked email campaigns may dramatically influence Direct traffic totals.
Direct traffic will rarely fluctuate wildly from Organic traffic. This is especially true if you evaluate traffic over a larger period of time. Why is that? Because there’s overlap between Direct and Organic Traffic. We know that a percentage of your Organic traffic is searching for your practice name or the doctor’s name. Therefore, these folks already know you. They may even be existing patients, much like your Direct traffic.
Unfortunately, you can no longer pull organic keyword data from Google Analytics. You’re stuck with the dreaded “(not provided)” results. There’s no simple way around this roadblock, so here’s the stance we take: evaluate ALL traffic together. You’re inevitably going to have patients who have known you for years enter the site organically, but you’re also going to have prospects who found out about you via search, or through Google AdWords, but didn’t convert, then come back to the website and convert into a lead Directly, even though they found you originally through a general search. Bottom line: there’s overlap.
If you’re paying an agency for results, and they’re overseeing ALL your digital efforts, then the goal should be to grow the traffic as a whole, and more importantly, the leads. If you can track leads generated from digital marketing to consultations to paying patients then you can calculate ROI.
*Important note: when evaluating 2017 vs. 2016 for our top 15 clients, not a single one showed an increase in total traffic but a drop in Direct traffic. Simply put, if you’re growing traffic from Organic and other Referral sources then you’ll almost assuredly see Direct traffic rise over the course of a year.
How can I increase Direct traffic to my website?
As noted above, brand recognition and word-of-mouth awareness influences Direct traffic. That doesn’t mean go run and place a billboard ad to help boost sagging Direct traffic. That could be a profitable marketing investment, but that decision shouldn’t be made based on a knee-jerk reaction to a drop in Direct traffic. Instead, focus on patient retention. Evaluate your process for exactly what you do to ensure a first-time patient not only comes back again but generates more patient referrals for you!
*Another important note: If you’re a plastic surgery practice that only does surgery, retention matters much less than it does for a cosmetic dermatology or med spa practice. That said, you should still focus on implementing the same “touch points” to turn your happy surgical patients into your brand ambassadors!
If you’d like to learn more about Gooogle Analytics then check out our collection of articles on the subject here. If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your interpretation of Google Analytics data then check out this article.
If you run an aesthetic practice and you’d like to learn more about increasing your website traffic or simply improving your digital marketing then drop us a note here or give us a call at 877-673-7096 x2.