Web traffic is an important tool for measuring your company’s brand visibility and understanding your target audience. It is not enough to simply have a website these days. To be competitive, you need to constantly review your website analytics and use web traffic data to inform your business decisions.
Before you can track your web traffic, you must first add the tracking code from a website analytics tool like Google Analytics to your site header. Most analytics tools provide similar information: where visitors are coming from, what types of devices are they using, how many pages are they visiting, etc. Regardless of which analytics platform you use, it’s important to understand the different types of web traffic and how you can use them.
Understanding Types of Web Traffic
Different types of web traffic can reveal different details about your customers and how your business operates online. These types of web traffic include:
Direct traffic is visitors who type your URL directly into their web browser’s address bar. These people already know your brand; otherwise, they wouldn’t know your site exists. Direct traffic also includes visitors from sources that your web analytics tool doesn’t recognize, such as PDF documents or text messages.
For most established businesses, direct traffic is the result of long-term brand familiarity or repeat visits. Visitors who originally came to your site through a search engine or social media post may return as direct traffic. Alternatively, direct traffic can come from traditional offline advertising strategies or print marketing materials such as business cards and direct mail. As long as these elements include your website, they are likely to encourage direct traffic.
This means, however, that direct traffic does not inherently provide actionable information about your site visitors. Unlike other traffic types, you can’t attribute direct traffic to a specific campaign or ad. You might consider creating separate landing pages for offline marketing campaigns that can only be accessed by typing in the exact URL, but that might get cumbersome to manage in the long run.
Referral traffic consists of visitors who come to your site from other places on the Internet. Common referral traffic sources include news sites, directories, blogs, and external search engines. For example, if your local newspaper publishes an article that mentions your business and links to your website in the article, anyone who clicks on that link will be considered a referral visitor.
You can increase your referral traffic by reaching out to bloggers or journalists to see if they would be interested in featuring your business in a story. If the source is popular or reputable, chances are someone will click the link to your site. You can also create your own backlinks by commenting on articles or forums and including a link to your site when it makes sense.
However, be careful building links for your referral traffic efforts. If a search engine’s crawlers determine that you’re spamming people or building low-quality links, the search engine can penalize you and undermine your organic search efforts. Instead, focus on building links from the highest quality sources you can find and use your links as a way to provide value to readers, not just as a nifty route to your site. .
Organic traffic consists of visitors who come to your site through search engine results pages, also known as SERPs. Increasing organic traffic is the primary goal of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO strategies aim to make your site more authoritative so that pages that match relevant search terms appear higher in search results.
Organic traffic is highly scalable, meaning the more effort you put into it, the bigger returns you’ll get. One of the main factors that determines the search ranking of an individual page is the quality of its content. If it answers a visitor’s questions quickly and thoroughly, there’s a better chance that it will perform well.
However, content quality is not the only SEO consideration. A search engine’s algorithm will also evaluate page accessibility, metadata, user experience, and mobile friendliness, among other factors. The broader authority of your domain often heavily influences SERP rankings as well. Often, increased SEO and social traffic will give your site more credibility, which will also indirectly improve your organic traffic.
Related: 11 SEO Copywriting Tips to Increase Small Business Sales
Social traffic includes visitors who come to your site from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Reddit. This includes visitors who click on your social media posts, your social media ads, and other users’ organic posts.
Like organic traffic, social traffic is highly scalable. Social media performance directly benefits social traffic volume, so you’ll likely see a huge influx of site visitors if one of your posts goes viral on social media. The key is to post updates consistently and engage your followers as often as possible. Your goal should be to build and engage community, not just to have a token social presence.
Over time, you may notice that some social platforms generate more traffic than others. There’s not always a rhyme or reason when this happens – it could be a random coincidence or it could have wider implications for the type of audience you can reach on each platform. When you notice this trend over time, it might be time to adjust your social media strategy to favor platforms that drive more traffic to your site.
How to Use Web Traffic
Ultimately, understanding your web traffic is worthless if you don’t use it wisely. Consider adopting a marketing analytics tool like HubSpot, Marketo or Adobe Analytics to optimize your web traffic. Then, get into the habit of generating regular reports to track your web traffic performance and make any necessary adjustments. Not only will this increase your customer base, but it will also boost your overall revenue goals.
This article was originally published on July 2, 2015. It has been updated by Kaiti Norton.