Websites are developed to accomplish one thing: drive traffic and generate leads. The key to increase website traffic and conversions, is first to understand how visitors land on your website. Your website traffic sources can provide invaluable information about their intent and how you can utilize website optimization to enhance their journey. Therefore, it is essential for you to know which traffic sources for websites should be tracked, and how.
In this blog we break down the different types of website traffic sources. Additionally, we will provide you with metrics to monitor, 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 a specific origin and method for arriving at the website. The four major channels for site include: direct, referral, organic and campaign.
As a website owner, you should focus on the different traffic mediums as no one traffic source for websites is more valuable than the other. Additionally, they should all be part of a marketing plan, to develop the overall total website traffic visiting your website.
Four Major Website Traffic Channels:
The source of traffic is an important metric to track in order to evaluate your marketing campaigns. Moreover, by tracking the data you will be able to develop a better user experience for your website and optimize it to increase conversions. Therefore, with the right data and analysis, you will be able to track your goal completions from each source.
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 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.
Each of the four traffic sources will measure the amount of total traffic being generated from each source. It is broken down into their respective categories which allows for comparisons to take place, and new goals to be set in terms of each site traffic. Additionally, the data should be monitored and evaluated to understand if the website’s digital marketing strategies are working.
To evaluate your website’s strategies both paid, and SEO, traffic source data can be collected and analyzed to paint a picture about each source, and to determine where resources should be spent.
For example, when considering organic search traffic you can analyze it by focusing on particular keywords and the specific page driving the organic traffic.
We can also take referral traffic as an example. For instance, referral traffic sources can be categorized into social traffic or referrals, third party blog mentions, or even citations from directories.
Lets take a look at a study conducted by HubSpot that breaks down the different sources of website traffic. The pie chart below shows the various website traffic sources and their percentage of the total inbound traffic for a website. For this study, HubSpot interviewed 400 web traffic analysts in the U.S.:
As you can see, the direct website traffic source takes 22% of the traffic total. However, social media and organic search engine traffic comes in close second. Overall, this shows that most websites will have website traffic coming from all sources.
Make sure to check the traffic sources every month. It can be a good indicator into your website’s health and how it is performing. A performance indicator could be the amount of direct website traffic you are getting. If the website continues to see an upward trend of direct traffic, it could mean that you are having repeat customers.
User Intent for Different Traffic Sources for Websites
Depending on the source of your website traffic will depend on the overall 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, and type of content.
For example you may want to send them directly to a blog or a product page if they are coming from your social media page, depending on if the media post was informational and product based.
The table below shows the different website traffic source type, and describes their usual motivation:
|Website Traffic Source||Visitor Action||User Intent|
|Organic search||Clicked on the website after entering a query on a search engine||Highly motivated and knows exactly what they are looking for|
|Direct||Typed the website’s URL into the address bar||Repeat customer, loyal customer, heard about the website from a friend|
|Referral||Clicked the website’s link that was on another website||Interested in getting more information|
|Paid||Clicked on an ad||Can be impatient, and looking fro something immediately|
|Clicked on a link in an email||Been to the site before, has subscribed to something|
|Social||Found a link in a social media post||Curious and browsing the web|
Six Types of Website Traffic Sources:
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.
SEO and content marketing focuses on increasing a website’s organic traffic source. By developing content that has been optimized with SEO techniques, you can drive organic traffic to your website for the foreseeable future. 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
- Target long-tail keywords
- Write Irresistible Title Tags and Header Tags
- Pay Attention to key elements of on-page SEO
- Guest Blog to increase Domain authority
- Invite leaders in your industry to guest blog on your website
- Implement Schema markup on your content
- Make sure to use internal links on your pages
- Ensure the website is responsive
- Ensure site speed on desktop and mobile
- 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.
Refining Direct Traffic Source Data:
One thing about direct traffic is that it is important that you establish parameters for it. This means excluding certain IP addresses from showing up in the data.
Excluding and restricting IP addresses is important for keeping your data reliable and informative. For example, when examining the direct traffic source data, you do not want to have your search traffic, or your employees search traffic to show up. Think about it, if you are constantly visiting your website to check features, or to ensure something is working the way it is suppose to, your direct traffic data could show inflated data.
In order to ensure that you are getting reliable data, use these steps to exclude employee and your traffic source.
How to Exclude IP Address from Direct Website Traffic with Google Analytics
- Login to Google Analytics
- Select your profile
- Select the Admin menu
- Under Account select All Filters
- Click Add Filter
- Give the filter a name (For example: Use your IP address)
- Leave Filter Type as predefined
- It should read “Exclude + traffic from the IP addresses + that are equal to”
- Enter your IP address
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:
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!
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:
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.
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:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Q&A Websites and Forums
There are 5 major sources of website traffic: organic, direct, referral, paid, and social media.
1. Organic traffic comes from people who visit your website because they found it through a search engine or another source. This is the most common type of traffic and is the least expensive to acquire.
2. Direct traffic comes from people who visit your website because you’ve advertised on Google or other search engines, or you’ve placed an ad on your website. Direct traffic is usually more expensive than organic traffic, but it’s also more likely to be conversion-friendly.
3. Referral traffic comes from people who recommend your website to their friends or followers. This is the second most common type of site traffic after organic traffic. Referral Traffic usually requires less effort than advertising since it relies on word-of-mouth marketing alone.
4. Paid traffic comes from people who purchase something from your website. Paid ads can be either banner ads or text ads. Paid ads are usually more effective than referral and direct ads in terms of conversion rates, but they’re also more expensive.
5. Social media refers to any channel that allows users to communicate with one another by posting comments and updates about their lives and experiences. Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are great for driving site visitors
The origin through which people discovered your website is considered a traffic source in its most basic form. The source is derived from or comes from every session or visit to your website. Web & Google Analytics keep track of the source or origin of traffic, which is categorized as traffic source, whenever someone visits your website via a desktop, mobile, or any Internet-enabled device.
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.
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.