Website Traffic Sources – Six Types Of Traffic Sources To Track

Websites are developed to drive traffic and generate leads. The key to increase website traffic and conversions, is first to understand how visitors land on your website. The source of your website traffic will provide valuable information about their intent and how you can utilize website optimization to enhance their journey. Connecting it to SEO, understanding and tracking the source of traffic, can help businesses decide if they should invest in SEO, and help agencies define an SEO strategy for the site as well.

In this blog we break down the different types of website traffic sources. Additionally, we provide details on important metrics to track, challenges you may encounter and best practices to get the most out of your website traffic source data.

Table of Contents:

What is Website Traffic

Website traffic are the web users who visit a website. Website traffic is measured in visits, and are called “sessions.” Website traffic is how online businesses measure their effectiveness at attracting an audience.

What is Website Traffic Sources

Website traffic source is defined as how each unique visitor arrived at a website from their origin. Every visitor will have one of four specific origin or method for arriving at a website. They are: direct, referral, organic and campaign (paid ads).

As a website owner, you should focus on all four traffic sources as no one source is more valuable than the other. Additionally, each website traffic source can and should be part of the company’s overall marketing plan.

Four Major Website Traffic Channels:

The source of traffic is important to track in order to evaluate your marketing campaigns. By tracking the source data you will be able to develop a better user experience for your website and optimize it to increase conversions. Moreover, knowing the sources of traffic can help you optimize your website and marketing strategies to improve your website’s visibility, engagement, and conversion rates.

The four main types of traffic sources include: direct, referral, organic and campaign. 

  • Direct traffic: This traffic source arrives at the website by directly entering in the URL into their browser. The direct web traffic source is usually a direct result of brand awareness.
  • Referral traffic: These visitors arrive at the website by clicking on a URL link from another website
  • Organic Search traffic: Simply put, this is free traffic – sometimes known as SEO traffic. For this traffic source the user finds and discovers the website by using a search engine for a specific query and then clicks on the website’s listing.
  • Campaign traffic: Is a term used to describe paid traffic sources. Visitors find the website through a paid ad, or from another campaign developed to drive traffic back to the website. Paid advertising can be from Facebook ads, Google ads, bing ad or any other paid way of driving.

Six Types of Website Traffic Sources:

traffic sources for website, sources of website traffic

To gain further insights into the traffic sources of your website, in this section we define the six different sources of traffic reaching your online business:

1.  Traffic Source: Organic Traffic

Organic traffic source is traffic that arrives at the website after entering in a search query on a search engine and is presented with the content. 

This is where our agency at Clear Door SEO focuses. We believe SEO and content marketing is one of the most valuable traffic sources. By developing content that has been optimized with SEO techniques, you can drive organic traffic to your website for a long time. In order to have a sustainable flow of traffic to your content, you can utilize evergreen content

The main selling point of organic traffic is that it is completely free! As long as you can develop content that matches user intent, and does a good job at answering questions, Google will display your content above your competitors.

The Benefits of Organic traffic 

As mentioned above, the biggest benefit of organic traffic is that it is free. Another benefit is that 70% of the links that search engine users click on are organic links. These two aspects make organic traffic to be the most sought after, and prioritized source. If you can match searcher intent searching for the keywords that your content targets, Google as well as visitors will choose your content over the competitors.

The best way to increase organic traffic to your content and website is to engage in SEO (search engine optimization) processes. SEO coupled with content marketing can help drive high value traffic and generate positive leads for your business. SEO techniques, including on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO should be carried out.

In order to increase your organic website traffic source, you can implement the following techniques:

How To Increase Organic Traffic to Website

  1. Target long-tail keywords
  2. Write Irresistible Title Tags and Header Tags
  3. Pay Attention to key elements of on-page SEO
  4. Guest Blog to increase Domain authority
  5. Invite leaders in your industry to guest blog on your website
  6. Implement Schema markup on your content
  7. Make sure to use internal links on your pages
  8. Ensure the website is responsive
  9. Ensure site speed on desktop and mobile
  10. Develop and incorporate different forms of content – videos, infographics, podcasts

Use these ten methods to help increase organic traffic to your website in order to increase your most valuable source of traffic. Just make sure to note that organic traffic usually takes significant time and energy to reap the benefits. That being said, the resources you put into it will benefit your website for years to come.

2. Traffic Source: Direct Traffic

Direct traffic is defined as a visitor that lands on your page by directly by typing your website’s URL in to the address bar. 

Direct Traffic Source Benefits:

Increasing your direct traffic source may be difficult, and the benefits of doing so may be hard to see. However, the primary benefit of having data shows an increase in direct traffic is that, more than likely these are repeat customers.

If you continue to see an uptrend in the direct traffic source data, it means you are doing well at establishing a brand and positioning yourself as a leader in the industry. People that directly search for your website do so because they trust your business and believe they can find exactly what they are looking for.

In other words, you are building a loyal customer base, and a strong brand awareness. Now is time to think about how to engage this web traffic source even more, or ways to further optimize your website to convert these visitors into more sales.

3. Traffic Source: Referral Traffic

Referral traffic occurs when a user clicks on your link from a website other than your own. Referral traffic falls into two categories: 

  • Backlinks
  • Citations 

In addition to being a website traffic source, backlinks and citations provide massive benefits in terms of your website’s ranking and overall SEO score. Building backlinks and citations can raise a business’ domain authority, sending positive signals to Google about the website being trusted by others.

Backlinks and citations, are considered as trust and authority building mechanisms as anytime a website receives one, search engines consider it a ‘vote of confidence’. Backlinks and citations are essential to building an online business, however, be aware of bad practices. There are digital marketing agencies out there that will sell backlinks to you. This is a big no-no in SEO though. Search engines consider to be Black-Hat link building practices, and will penalize the online business when they find out.

In order to keep your online business safe, make sure to follow Whits-Hat backlink building techniques. A few ways you can start building backlinks and citations for referral traffic are:

  • Register for high-quality industry specific directories
  • Write guest blogs for relevant websites in your niche
  • Work with influences that specialize in your sector
  • Search for unlinked mentions of your company and try to claim backlinks 
  • Engage with other blogs, forums and groups by leaving valuable comments and feedback

4. Traffic Source: Paid Traffic

The source of Paid search traffic is from Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns. Usually, PPC comes from hosting ads through Google AdWords or on social media sites like Facebook. That being said, as time goes by more and more ad management platforms are popping up.

Benefits of Paid Traffic

Unlike organic traffic and other website traffic sources, paid traffic is instant. Paid traffic doesn’t take time for the website to rank using content management or SEO, or for it to build citations and backlinks. It is instant, and if done correctly, highly motivated traffic can find its way to the website to purchase whatever services or products are available. 

Additionally, paid traffic can help you get in front of people that may have never found your services. As Google and other data collectors do all the work learning about the individual, they can help place your ads directly in front of them, and work to place them in your sales funnel.

However, just because you run ads, doesn’t mean you will be making a sale every time someone clicks on the ad. You still need to have a well optimized website, that has great conversion mechanisms in place.

5. Traffic Source: Email Marketing

The email marketing traffic source comes from when a user clicks on your website’s link that has been placed in an email that you have sent them. The emails are usually part of your subscribers list, or other call to actions you have put in place to capture the visitors email address. Moreover, in order to develop a strong email campaign, it is important to follow best practices for email marketing.

Importance of Email Traffic

The traffic coming from your email marketing campaigns are extremely valuable. 


It is simple, this traffic flow are coming from your existing leads or past customers. Moreover, everyone that falls into this category are people that opted into your email lists, or they previously purchased something and provided you with their email addresses. 

Moreover, these individuals are usually more motivated to buy something from your company as they already have trust and believe that you are a reputable company that can provide whatever they need. 

The customers are so motivated that a study shows that for every $1 spent on email marketing, you will see an average return of $36! Making it one of the highest return on investments (ROI) for your business.

For a more complete run down of the importance of email marketing, check out our Why is email marketing important blog!

Tracking Email Marketing Traffic:

Email traffic can be an important component of your marketing efforts. However, it is essential that you track it properly. 

First, you should make sure you are using tracking software, to understand how the emails are performing overall. Are they getting opened? Are people opening them multiple times? And are people actually visiting your website from the emails?

Having a handle on this data can help you be more successful when running these campaigns. Whereas, you should incorporate A/B testing in to your campaigns to enhance the efforts and discover the types of call to actions, text and images work best with your audience.

6. Traffic Source: Social Media

Social media traffic arrives at your site by finding a social media post on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and clicking on the link.

The benefit of Social Media Traffic:

Two of the biggest benefits of social media traffic is:

  • It is free! You can post your content on any social media platform you want for no cost
  • It is highly scalable. The more you post and interact with your community, the more success you will see

Streamline your Social Media Traffic Efforts:

As you begin conducting your social media campaigns, you will see which one performs better for you. Depending on your industry and the type of content you are producing, different platforms will have more benefits. Make sure to monitor the traffic, and focus your efforts into whichever platform is providing the most benefits.

Posting on Social media platforms can be time consuming and exhausting. Therefore, while developing content for social media platforms, remember to keep the social media rule of thirds in mind. It can help you automate the process and get some of your time back!

Social Media Rule of thirds to enhance social media automation and traffic

How To Find Source of a Visitor on your Website

Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool provided by Google to track the source of your visitor. To use Google Analytics, you need to install a tracking code on your website, which will collect data about your website’s visitors. Once you have installed the tracking code, you can log in to your Google Analytics account and view the traffic sources report.

Here are five different ways to find the source of your website traffic:

2. Referral Traffic:

Referral traffic is the traffic that comes to your website from other websites. To find the sources of referral traffic, you can go to the Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals section in your Google Analytics account. Here, you can see the list of websites that are sending traffic to your website, and the number of sessions and bounce rate for each referral source.

3. Organic Traffic:

Organic traffic is the traffic that comes to your website from search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. To find the sources of organic traffic, you can go to the Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels section in your Google Analytics account. Then, you can see the breakdown of your website traffic by different channels, including organic search, direct, referral, social, and email.

Google Analytics and Google Search Console are great ways to track organic traffic from Google, however there are other search engines as well. Therefore, you should consider creating a Bing Webmaster Tools account to track traffic from Bing.

4. Social Traffic:

Social traffic is the traffic that comes to your website from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn. To find the sources of social traffic, you can go to the Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels section in your Google Analytics account. Within the account you will see the breakdown of your website traffic by different social media channels.

5. Paid Traffic:

Paid traffic is the traffic that comes to your website from paid advertising campaigns like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, or LinkedIn Ads. To find the sources of paid traffic, you can go to the Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels section in your Google Analytics account. Here, you can see the breakdown of your website traffic by different paid advertising channels.

Finding traffic sources of a website is critical to understand how your website is performing and where you need to focus your efforts. By using Google Analytics and analyzing the different types of traffic sources, you can optimize your website and marketing strategies to improve your website’s visibility, engagement, and conversion rates.

User Intent for Different Types of Traffic Sources for Websites

Depending on the source of  your website traffic will depend on their intent, and motivation. It is important to know the different motives of your traffic sources so you can make sure you send them to the correct content. 

The table below shows the traffic source type, and describes the visitors usual motivation:

Website Traffic SourceVisitor ActionUser Intent
Organic searchClicked on the website after entering a query on a search engineHighly motivated and knows exactly what they are looking for
DirectTyped the website’s URL into the address barRepeat customer, loyal customer, heard about the website from a friend
ReferralClicked the website’s link that was on another websiteInterested in getting more information
PaidClicked on an adCan be impatient, and looking fro something immediately
EmailClicked on a link in an emailBeen to the site before, has subscribed to something
SocialFound a link in a social media postCurious and browsing the web
Six website traffic sources describing user intent and actions taken

Web Traffic Sources Best Practices

In order to get the most out of your online efforts, and to harness as much potential as possible out of the various website sources, we have come up with a short list of best practices:

  • Monitor, review, and record your analytics. It is important to keep track of all your website traffic data. In order to make any informed decisions, you will need to set up A/B tests to track if the changes you made are having a positive or negative impact on your website’s traffic sources.
  • Deep dive into your data, are you getting traffic from unknown sources? Maybe you are getting traffic from specific queries and keywords that you didn’t even know existed. Or maybe you see you are getting traffic from certain long-tail keyword queries, but the blog the visitors are landing on doesn’t suffice; which tells you maybe you need to develop a new piece of content.
  • Develop content that targets topics instead of keywords, and is built for your audience. Getting and increasing traffic to your website is one thing. But the ultimate goal is to convert them into a customer. The best long-term strategy is to have a content strategy that makes organic traffic visitors trust your website, and become direct traffic or part of your email marketing efforts.
  • Focus on multiple sources of website traffic. At the beginning you will want to test the waters of every source you can. This way you can build a multifaceted online business. Moreover, it will help you interlink various efforts and campaigns to grow your traffic.
  • Don’t get discouraged. There are almost two billion websites on the internet. Carving out your niche and driving traffic to your online business’ website will take time and will be an uphill battle at first. But if you stay consistent, use SEO best practices, and stay away from shortcuts and ‘get rich quick schemes’ your business will thrive. Take a deep breath and keep building!

FAQs: Website traffic sources

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding website traffic sources:

1. What are the sources of website traffic?

The three main traffic sources are direct, referral, and search traffic. These three traffic sources include: organic, direct, referral, paid, email, and social media.

Some of the most common sources of website traffic are search engine traffic, social media traffic, and email marketing. Each of these has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the one that will best help you reach your target audience.

Search engine traffic is usually the most reliable and consistent source of website traffic. This is because search engines like Google are designed to index websites quickly and accurately, which means that people who are looking for information about your topic will easily be able to find you. However, this also means that you need to make sure that your website is high quality in order for people to trust it enough to visit it.

Social media traffic is another great way to get website visitors. though it can be more unpredictable than search engine or email opt-in traffic. This is because social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are constantly changing their algorithms, which means that the visibility of your content can change quickly. However, if you do things right – like developing strong social media marketing campaigns – social media can be a very effective source of website traffic.

Email marketing or traffic from email subscriptions, provides the best ROI out of all the different sources of traffic. Whereas, the source usually includes a highly motivated and relevant audience. Additionally, the audience usually includes existing customers, and people that relate with your brand. 

2. What is the best free traffic source?

There are a number of free website traffic sources that you can use to get increase website traffic. Some of the most common methods used to generate website traffic include:

– TikTok
– Search engine optimization (SEO)
– Twitter
– Instagram
– Pinterest
– Q&A Websites and Forums
– YouTube
– Reddit
– LinkedIn
– Email

3. How can I check my website traffic for free?

There are a number of ways to check your website traffic for free. The most popular option is Google Analytics and Google Search Console which are free web analytic tools provided by Google. You can use it to see how many people have visited your website, what kind of traffic you’re getting from different sources, and what type of search terms your website is being found for.

You can also use SEO tools like Ubersuggest, Ahrefs and Semrush which offer free versions of their platforms that can help you track your website traffic.

Takeaways: Website Traffic Sources

We have covered six different traffic sources for websites, and the most important takeaway should be: You need all web traffic sources to be successful. 

While building a website, and community, don’t exclude any source of traffic for another. Each source will have its own benefits and challenges.

Every solid marketing strategy will ensure that all data is accounted for and analyzed. By analyzing data you will be able to monitor your overall efforts and come up with areas of improvement, and areas that you are succeeding in. By knowing which is which, you will be able to redefine your strategy and reallocate resources as necessary. 

Google Analytics and Google Search Console can be great free tools to monitor your efforts. You can also look into paid tools such as HubSpot, SEMrush, Moz, and Ubersuggest.

No matter where you are in your website design development journey, make sure to track the different traffic sources for your website. It will give you the insight needed to build for the future and be as successful as possible. Therefore, if you need any information, or help building your website traffic, Clear Door SEO, a SEO agency helping small businesses in Portland Oregon, is here to help. Reach out to us for a free consultation or site audit to start driving traffic back to your website.

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