Where Is Your Website Traffic Coming From?

Date: August 2, 2022

I recently had a meeting with a client who needed a refresher on what referral traffic is and it inspired me to give a full breakdown of the different traffic sources you can (and should) expect to see when reviewing your site’s visitor data. 

Google Analytics & You

Google Analytics captures the data of all your site visitors and organizes it as neatly as possible in its dashboard. There are other tracking tools out there, but the bulk of SEO’s rely on Google Analytics. Per a report from Orbit Media Studios, almost 95% of the top 200 marketing websites use Google Analytics. Let’s get into the different traffic sources out there. 

Direct Traffic

Direct traffic indicates site visitors who manually type out your website address in their browser. These users have been familiarized with your company (they could either be return visitors or saw your site address on external visual marketing like a billboard). Their intent is direct and your site is exactly what they wanted to reach. However, it should be noted that direct traffic’s categorization in Analytics can be a catch-all for any traffic sources Google may be unsure of in regards to point of origin so metrics on your direct traffic can fluctuate due to this variable. In recent years, there have been enhanced measures in big tech’s privacy policies (notably Apple) so placing site visitor data in the correct buckets has become more difficult.

Organic Traffic

This is what we’re after. We always want fresh eyes on the website, but SEO agencies prioritize organic traffic over other channels. With the culmination of great quality content, a healthy backlink portfolio, and other contributing factors, we aim to push the desired website higher and higher up on Google’s organic rankings for targeted terms. Hitting those Page 1 spots is crucial to obtaining new business. Google Analytics’ labeling of organic traffic includes site visitors from Google search but will also display the relevant data breakdown for any other organic search engines out there, such as Bing and Duckduckgo. Google search always takes the lions’ share of organic site visitors, which is why we as SEOs are focused on your site meeting Google’s best practices. 

Paid Traffic

Paid traffic is the categorization of any site visitors linked back to a paid ad campaign. Often listed as CPC (cost per click) in Google Analytics, these site visitors initiated their site visit strictly through a paid ad currently running for a certain term (or a phrase containing that targeted term). Paid ads show at the very top of Google search. Depending on your industry, click-through rates and conversions, a paid campaign can be a worthwhile consideration. 

Referral Traffic 

Referral traffic occurs when someone clicks a link from one spot on the web that directs someone to a specific site. A perfect example of this emerges within the legal industry, where one of the most common types of referral traffic occurs whenever someone wishes to visit a law firm’s site from a directory listing. 

Social Traffic

Social traffic is a type of referral traffic strictly pertaining to links on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. This can be a link from a Facebook post or even just a company website link in a page’s “About Us” section. Depending on your industry, a strong social media presence may be vital in attaining a wider audience to move your product or service. 

What Website Traffic Channels Matter Most?

Cue up the infamous phrase in SEO: “it depends”. There is no specific channel that takes precedent over the others. All these channels matter in their own important ways – sending you signals of how people are finding you. What really matters is measuring these signals as the months, quarters and years progress to monitor changes in consumer behavior. This is especially important if you are paying to see increased conversions stemming from paid, social, or organic by way of an optimized strategy. ROI is what you’re counting on and these channels’ metrics will show you what’s working and what isn’t.