Where does your website traffic really come from and what do you need to do to get more of it?
Let's continue our not-so-basic exploration of different traffic sources and their impact on our overall website traffic generation.
In the previous post, we looked into direct traffic as our first targeted website traffic source.
Today, let's address the other major sources:
- Search engine traffic.
- Referral traffic.
What Is SEARCH ENGINE TRAFFIC?
I don't think a definition is necessary here, but what the heck – for the sake of being thorough:
All visitors that come to your blog via search engines refer to as SEARCH ENGINE TRAFFIC.
When someone searches for a particular query, they are presented with a search engine results page (SERP) with two options: organic results and paid results.
Both are reported under “Search Engine Traffic” in your Google Analytics.
If you are not currently using Google AdWords to generate any paid traffic, then you can safely assume that all your search engine traffic is organic – naturally.
If you are still playing the Google PPC roulette, then you simply need to compare your “paid” vs “non-paid” traffic to know which traffic is which.
How to Improve Search Engine Traffic CTR
CTR stands for Click-Through Rate and, in the context of organic search results, it refers to how often search engine users click on your site listing out of all the times it gets shown in the search results.
Why is it important?
Simply being listed on the first page of Google is no guarantee of search engine traffic.
Low CTR usually means that no matter how highly your site is ranking for any number of keywords, search engine users aren't clicking on YOUR site, but rather your competitors'.
One great way to improve your CTR and consequently bring in more search engine traffic is to take a look at your titles and descriptions and ask yourself the following questions:
- Do they accurately reflect the contents of your post/page?
- Are they compelling enough?
- Do they give potential visitors a good reason to click on them?
Here's a great post on how to improve your descriptions.
Another great place to check up on your titles and descriptions and identify potential problems you might have is in your Google Webmaster Tools.
Once in your account, go to Diagnostics ==> HTML Suggestions.
Remember, it doesn't matter how highly your site ranks – if no one is clicking, you've got a problem that needs a fix, and quickly.
How Much Search Engine Traffic Is Too Much?
Yes, there is indeed such a thing as too much SEO traffic.
Allow me to explain.
On average, Google makes about 500 algorithm changes per year.
And each and every one of them threatens to wipe your website from the face of Google search results, very much like Panda update did to so many different sites.
Now imagine what will happen to your overall traffic picture, if your search engine traffic dries up all of a sudden?
When you consider how long it takes to recover from a Google penalty for even small mistakes, like server downtime, forgotten redirects, etc., counting on search engine traffic as your primary traffic source is a bit foolish to say the least.
So what is a good number?
As a general rule of thumb, no more than 40% of your referred traffic should come from Google because any significant change is bound to have a negative impact on your bottom line.
What Is REFERRAL TRAFFIC?
Referral traffic is any traffic that comes to your site via a hyperlink from any other site.
When a user arrives at your site, referral information is captured, which includes the referrer URL if available, time and date information and more.
Referral traffic is probably both the easiest and the hardest to get.
Why? Because it's directly affected by the QUALITY of your CONTENT.
3 Great Reasons To Want More Referral Traffic
- It's a great indicator of your brand popularity.
- It's a great source of natural backlinks.
- It's easy to get because it's entirely up to you and your own efforts.
Different Ways I Get Referral Traffic
Let me show you the most recent screenshot of my top 10 referral sites:
1. As you can see, social networks, namely Twitter and Facebook, are still my largest sources of referral traffic.
I am a bit fan of using Twitter as a traffic driving machine – as long as you get efficient at it and learn how to do it without getting sucked into it.
To learn more about how I mastered Twitter, check out this post:
2. Google.com as a referral traffic source: as I was doing my diligent research on the topic, I found a lot of bad information out there on where exactly your traffic comes from when it's listed under Google as a referral traffic source.
It's NOT your search engine traffic – that one falls under “Search Engine Traffic” source.
Here are some possible referrers for this traffic:
- Google Reader: one of the most widely used RSS feeders.
- Google Images
- Google Groups
- base.google.com listings
3. Social Media Dashboards:
When you visitors are using an online version of their favorite social media application, like Hootsuite.com, it'll show up under “Referral Traffic“.
However, most of us use desktop applications, like MarketMeSuite for instance, which is what I use.
In that case, Google cannot track the referrer of traffic, so that traffic is added to your Direct Traffic stats.
The same can be said about users of social media mobile apps.
In other words, my referral traffic from social media networks is most likely even greater than what's shown in the Referral Traffic section.
4. YouTube, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, and Bizsugar:
These four sites send me referral traffic without much engagement on my part.
They are the perfect model for “set it, and (somewhat) forget it” traffic generation – I keep them marginally updated at best.
Makes me wonder what would happen if I ACTUALLY got involved in them… Food for thought.
WPSubscribers is the new kind of list building plugin that I immediately fell in love with the minute I laid my hands on it.
And I wasn't shy to express that to the plugin creator, Jenni R, who in turn posted my comment on the main plugin site:
There's no guarantee that your comment will be added to the product website, of course, but when it is, the payoff in terms of traffic and a quality backlink can be huge.
By the way, to see what all the noise about WPSubscribers is, read my full review of the plugin:
Here comes yet another great source of your referral traffic: networking with fellow bloggers via guest posting, blog commenting, etc, building relationships with them, gaining quality in-content natural one way link building as a result.
This particular blog belongs to a good friend of mine, Mavis Nong, who reached out to me on YouTube over a year ago – before I started my Traffic Generation Cafe, as a matter of fact.
She publishes exceptional content and I highly recommend you add her to your list of blogs to frequently visit.
Notice how this kind of referral traffic works: now I am happily sending some traffic and a couple of links Mavis' way. Win-win.
Let Your Content Speak for Itself
Bottom line for ANY traffic source out there:
If your content sucks, so will your traffic.
To get some bright ideas for that next great blog post of yours, be sure to visit this post with 202 bite-sized tips to increase your blog traffic.
Maintain a Balance Between Traffic Sources
As you saw in the Google Analytics screenshot in the first part of this series on traffic sources, my traffic is fairly evenly divided between the 3 major ones:
- Direct Traffic
- Search Engine Traffic
- Referral Traffic
If you ask me, it's pretty darn close to being perfect in terms of the traffic balance.
Keeping your traffic in balance is like juggling a knife, a torch, and a banana – each requires its own special handling.
Ideally, you want to increase them all, of course, and the sooner the better; however, in practice…
DIRECT TRAFFIC will come as you start building your brand.
This is a very natural type of traffic that you can't really force in any way other than follow my suggestions in the first part of the series.
However, it does stem from the other two traffic sources, so as you increase your referral and search engine traffic, your direct traffic will follow the trend.
SEARCH ENGINE TRAFFIC also takes time and great dedication.
You need to work on your on-page SEO, as well as continuously build both quality and quantity of diverse and hopefully relevant links back to your site.
This kind of traffic won't increase overnight, but considering its incredible potential in terms of being both leveraged and highly targeted, it's definitely worth the effort many times over.
To learn more about how to make the best of your SEO efforts and bring in more search engine traffic, make sure to pick up your copy of my free SEO report.
REFERRAL TRAFFIC is much more immediate and controllable.
As soon as you publish a great guest post on an authority blog or leave an insightful comment on a hot post, your traffic will come right away.
Also, if you notice a drop in this type of traffic, it's always easy to remedy: just get back to networking, visiting other blogs, tweeting, etc.
Never put all your eggs in one basket though – ALWAYS make sure your traffic is diverse.
That way if any of your main traffic sources goes belly up for whatever reason, you'll ensure that your blog won't follow it.
What I was hoping to achieve by publishing this series on different traffic sources was not just give you an overall base knowledge on the subject, but also help you develop a solid traffic generation strategy that you can take back to your blog.
Did I succeed? Comment to show me that you're alive!
PS I am going to write one last installment in this series, explaining how to find out which ones of your traffic sources are more effective than others and how to capitalize on that knowledge.