Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) recently conducted an experiment in which it concluded that of the overall traffic on websites, organic search enjoys a much larger share than previously thought. Organic traffic from search formed 60% of the total direct traffic, as indicated by the results.
According to Gene McKenna, Groupon Inc’s director of product management, the company de-indexed itself from Google for six straight hours for the “sake of SEO science.”
Reliability of referrer questioned
To make any site disappear from search results, administrators de-index the site. Whenever a website is visited, his / her location is tracked and reported by referrers. Groupon was suspicious of the reliability of the data that reports provided, and this way it intended to shed some light on this.
The origins of visitors of any particular website are not always reported by browsers. Whenever a user visits any particular site by typing in the URL or with the help of a bookmark, the traffic generated in such a manner is considered as “direct traffic.” The user’s choice of operating system and browsers also plays a vital role in deciding if it is direct traffic or not. Whether the search is conducted directly from Google or from the search box of the browser also decides if it is direct traffic or not.
According to McKenna, “Getting a referrer is unreliable, which means organic traffic measurements are unreliable.”
Groupon was de-indexed from search results for a duration of six hours, and during this period, the company analyzed organic search and direct traffic using by-hour and by-browser parameters for pages with long URLs, for example, groupon.com/local/san-francisco/restaurants.
Groupon study vital for SEO
During the Groupon experiment, organic search traffic fell to a near-zero level, with direct traffic recording a sharp fall of 60%. It was also found that organic search referrals were reported in a better manner by desktop browsers compared to mobile browsers. Internet Explorer is a desktop browser that was found incapable of distinguishing direct traffic from organic and was wrong nearly 75% of the time, reporting direct traffic as inorganic.
Knowing where traffic comes from plays a very vital role among SEO content marketers, who need to evaluate their efforts and design their strategy for optimizing their business and hence, the fact that organic search traffic is under-reported bears major significance for them.
“In fact, there is arguably no single more important piece of information a search practitioner or marketing executive can have in budgeting, headcount, or strategy decisions,” said Nathan Safran, director of research at Conductor. It can be concluded from the experiment that the value of SEO marketing is probably understated.