The Importance of Web Traffic Sources

In the last part of the series we looked at the website metric of “web visitors” in detail and saw why web visitors are crucial to the success of your business. This part can be seen as an extension of that where we will be exploring a related topic, i.e. the web traffic sources!

In this post, we’ll first discuss the four main web traffic sources to your website and learn which among those are truly vital for your conversions. Then we’ll find out why it’s important to track these traffic sources to improve conversions. We’ll also delve a bit into the challenges and best practices of these traffic sources towards the end.

What are Web Traffic Sources?

“The first place I always start when evaluating a business’ marketing is figuring out where the heck all their site traffic, leads, and customers come from.” ~ writes Corey Wainwright, Director of Content at HubSpot.

That’s right! Unless you are completely aware of your web traffic sources and also measuring it from time to time, you are shooting in the dark! So, knowing where your prospects are coming from is as crucial as keeping a track of the number of visitors coming to your website.

Your web traffic sources can be mainly categorized into four,

  • Direct traffic – visitors landing on your website by typing in your website address or URL in the browser or via bookmarks.
  • Referral traffic – traffic coming to your website from other websites.
  • Organic search – prospects sent to your website from search engine result pages.
  • Paid traffic (campaign traffic) – audience landing on your website by clicking online advertisements run by you.

As a business owner, it’s vital to keep track of both the actual numbers and percentages of these above traffic sources. It will not only expose the shortfalls of your marketing campaigns but also let you do a comparative study of where your traffic is originating from. The resultant data from this study is vital for optimizing your marketing efforts and fine-tuning your traffic acquisition techniques.

Let’s explore these traffic sources further in the following section.

Four Main Web Traffic Sources

Direct Traffic –If you are receiving copious amounts of direct traffic then – Voila! You have a lot to be excited about. Direct traffic represents your loyal readers or repeat visitors! If you are running an e-commerce website, then this traffic signifies your existing satisfied customers who are re-visiting your site to purchase more! Direct visitors are the ones who know your brand well and recognize you as a subject matter expert or a solutions provider. They type in your site URL in the browser and visit your website to resolve a daunting query or to avail a product or service to alleviate their problem. For this segment of visitors, your website is a treasure-trove of answers to their most challenging questions, and that’s a strong indicator that your website is a source of valuable content!

Referral Traffic “Search engine traffic is something you rave about because it usually converts well, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the traffic you get from referring sites.” says Neil Patel, owner of KISSMetrics. In fact, you must not just pay more attention to your referral traffic but also analyze and optimize it for getting the most out of the money that you invest in marketing strategies. That way, you will grow your target audience as well as find partners for your business.

This type of traffic can be further broken down into individual referrers and referring domains. Individual referrers are the individual pages on a website that sends traffic to your website. And referring domain traffic is the sum total of all the traffic coming from a single domain.  Cathy Gribble, Associate Director of Digital Strategy at Team One says that “the first place we look when we encounter unexpected spikes in traffic [are the referral reports], as they allows us to quickly identify the source and the context for the spike”. With this information at your disposal, you can very well optimize the web traffic sources and keep growing the target audience of your website.

Organic Search Traffic – This kind of traffic is a tell-tale sign that your website is ranking high for certain keywords in the search engine results. That’s awesome news! However, it doesn’t include the traffic coming from your Pay-Per-Click ads that also pop-up near the search results. So, the higher you are ranking for competitive keywords, the more organic search traffic you will receive on your website. It’s no secret that websites that publish quality content on a regular basis will rank higher in the search engines drawing more visitors from search results.

As a marketer, you must monitor how your keywords are ranking in the search results from time to time and optimize them (if needed) to grow your organic traffic. Hence, it is vital to keep a close track of your organic search traffic to increase ROI (Return-On-Investment) and conversions! Also, make sure that you are analyzing this traffic over a longer time period to monitor the search trends and discover which keywords are retaining higher rankings in the search engines.

Ad or Campaign Traffic – If you are looking to increase targeted traffic to your website with minimum effort and time, then you got to run online ads. This traffic can cost you some money, but it can draw thousands of visitors to your website in a very short time. This traffic is almost instantaneous provided your ad campaigns are successful! Unlike organic search traffic, you need not spend weeks or months slogging to write quality articles for your website and wait patiently for them to rank high in the search results to receive organic search traffic.

However, to create a successful ad campaign, you must plan and implement it meticulously. Your ad campaigns can be a disaster if you fail to define your goals clearly and select the most suitable platforms to run your ads. Unsuccessful ad campaigns will not only bring unwanted results but also cost you a lot of money!

You can drive traffic through a variety of ads such as banner ads, social media ads, Google Adwords and other PPC (Pay-Per-Click) ads, 3rd party opt-in email lists, purchased newsletter ads, affiliate programs and so on.

Most Valuable Web Traffic Sources for Conversions

We learned that organic search is the top source for generating website traffic [in 2012]” claims

Yes, organic search traffic can certainly lead to higher conversions if the traffic has a good amount of quality leads. A higher volume of organic search traffic need not always translate into higher sales volume if the percentage of qualified prospects is low. In a survey conducted by among business owners, almost all of their participants marked search engines as the top source of website traffic – both in terms of volume and quality.

Almost all prospective buyers start their online product research on the search engines. They don’t seem to mind clicking on ads placed on websites that provide highly informative and helpful content that solves their queries. Online buyers also wouldn’t mind trying out a product or service recommended by a website that offers impeccable content.

It has been found that buyers prefer clicking on ads that are organically placed rather than paid advertisements. They appear to trust the testimonials from actual people who have bought a product/service more than the ones appearing in the official company websites. Hence, it’s well worth the effort to start creating quality content – be it articles, infographics, slideshows or video – on your website for attracting free organic traffic and increasing conversions.

So, if you haven’t yet started, start leveraging this free traffic source to the fullest to enhance your sales volume!

Why is it Important to Measure your Traffic Sources?

Unless you understand the top traffic sources to your website, you can never invest your time and money more judiciously in your marketing efforts! Let’s take organic search traffic first. If you don’t know which keywords are bringing in the highest number of prospects to your website, you can never optimize your content and keyword strategies. But here’s a caveat. After Google introduced SSL encryption to searches, tracking keywords from organic traffic has gotten all the more difficult; so factor in this challenge when analyzing organic search traffic as a source of lead generation.

Now let’s analyze referral traffic. In simple terms, referral traffic signifies an inbound link from a website sending traffic your way. But that’s just ambiguous, isn’t it? You must also know which websites are sending you the most referral traffic that’s translating into leads and helping you increase sales! Is it social media sites, sub-domains (for example,, is the subdomain of, or your guest blogs? You must be able to drill that all down to get the most out of your marketing dollars!

If you are analyzing visitors from social media, you should be able to figure out which social media platform is sending you the most visitors to your website. Is it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus? You must be able to know all of that to optimize your marketing strategies.

Talking about ad or campaign traffic, you must analyze which PPC ads are sending you the most qualified leads, and which type of ads are leading to better conversions. Is it banner ads, text ads or is it some other type of ads? The same goes with every traffic source that you are tracking. Now if it’s direct traffic, you should be able to track the percentage of visitors landing on your website by typing in the URL in the browser and how many arrived through saved bookmarks and so on.

You should be able to break down every bit of the traffic source to a granular level and know which source is leading to the highest conversions.

Web Traffic Sources: Challenges and Best Practices

Challenges – While almost all traffic sources are easy to track down, social media traffic is not! It’s near impossible to track back to the inbound links that is sending you traffic from social media posts. That’s because they either exist in comment threads or temporary conversations that you cannot track back to and analyze as they no longer exist.

Best Practices – The best web traffic source for your website depends on the type of your business. However, it is recommended to maintain a wide range of traffic sources for your website. This will make sure that your website still draws visitors from alternate traffic sources even if your primary traffic source is lost. To grow a steady stream of traffic, you must check your analytics tool regularly for those keywords and phrases that you have never imagined your prospects were searching for. These long-tail keywords will offer new topics and content development ideas.

Always make sure that you build content around topics and not keywords. And keep your target prospects in mind while building your website. To keep your website fresh, start a blog as a sub-domain of your main website and keep adding new content regularly!

How can FoxMetrics help you track Web Traffic Sources?

No matter what traffic sources you are trying to acquire or grow for your website, FoxMetrics can help you accomplish your goals. Our suite of intuitive tools can not only help you grow your website visitors, but also help keep track of each of those traffic sources to the deepest levels. This type of granular tracking technique can help you restructure your marketing strategies for optimal lead generation and conversions.

You can learn more about FoxMetrics suite of products here!

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