Where do your best website visitors come from?

(3 minute read)

If you’re a business owner, hopefully you know the answer to this question. If not, read on if you want to get the most from your website.

Finding your best sources of website traffic is relatively easy and allows you to make informed decisions about where to invest your time or your money.

Your website visitors come from a variety of channels and some will be more valuable than others. Good traffic tends to stay longer, look at more pages and has a higher chance of buying from you or signing up for your email newsletter. (When a visitor does something you want them to do, we generally call this a conversion in web lingo).

To get this information from your website you’ll need to install analytics unless it’s built-in to your website. Google Analytics is free and comprehensive and is the most popular option. See the end of this post for a link to how to set it up on your website.

Types of web traffic

Your web visitors are commonly grouped by a small number of sources and the difference in their behaviour can be significant.

Organic search

Usually your best visitors will come from a search engine, so they’ve used Google or Bing and have found your site in the search results for their query. Naturally this traffic is already interested in what you do before they arrive on your site and typically will spend more time and view more pages on your site than other visitors.

Paid search

Search engines make a lot of money from selling ads next to search results. It’s very common for businesses to supplement their web traffic with paid search ads. Paid search visitors can be a great source of traffic if your ads are targeting the right keywords used in search queries.

Direct

These visitors come from bookmarks, or they’ve typed your website address directly into their browser. These will usually be repeat customers, partners or employees.

Email

Email visitors come from links in an email campaign – usually sent from an email marketing tool like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor.

Referral

These visitors come from links on other websites. Getting links to your site on other websites (called backlinks) is one of the most important elements affecting where your site shows up in search results.

Social

Social traffic comes from the many different social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. Social media is estimated to drive 30% of all traffic to websites worldwide.

Display

Display is another form of paid advertising that includes all of the visual ad banners you see around the web and in mobile apps.

Next steps

You’ll really do yourself and your business a favour if you set up analytics on your site. The most common is Google Analytics because it’s free but it’s also really good. A quick search will find lots of guides for setting up Google Analytics on your website, here’s a great one at Moz.com.

This is a typical view of channel data from Google Analytics. We can see the bounce rate, session duration and conversion rate varies between channels, and it helps us decide where to invest our time and money. In this example, Paid Search has a higher purchase rate than Organic Search, while Display isn’t generating any purchases. It would make sense to increase spend on Paid Search and reduce spend on Display ads (unless you’re using Display ads to increase awareness of your brand).

Typical view of Google Analytics channels data
Click to zoom

Once you’ve got analytics in place, you really need to add some conversions. These are things that you really want your web visitors to do – like make a purchase, fill out a contact form, sign up to your email newsletter (if you do one), or even watch a video. Conversion tracking is the crucial step that will really help you identify your best traffic and improve your ROI.

Of course all this takes time and you need to be willing to get your hands a little dirty. But if you’d rather get someone else to help then be sure to get in touch.

#protip Google’s Link Builder allows you to track links you create so you can see how traffic from your link performs.