Blog Traffic Sources: Interpreting The Data

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Looking at your analytics to see where your traffic is coming from can be confusing and cause a lot of frustration. And what makes it even more confusing and frustrating is that there really is no one perfect mix or single perfect solution. The traffic results vary from blog to blog and so should the traffic goals. But before you can set those goals you need to know what those traffic sources indicate. Otherwise, how do you know where you need to focus your efforts?

blog traffic sources

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Organic Traffic

Organic traffic is traffic that comes through any of the search engines. If you’re using Google analytics to monitor your site you’ll see this traffic listed as Google, Yahoo, Bing and other specific search engines. This traffic is finding its way to your blog because of the keywords you’re using and the search engine optimization you’re using on your site.

Their is no single source of traffic that’s better than the others but they do have different effects on your overall results. Organic traffic is looking for information and for many of these searchers it’ll be the first time they see your blog. If you can grab their attention and hold it they’ll come back again and again. If you can hold their attention long enough they may even turn into customers.

However, the benefit of organic traffic is the fact that they’re looking for information. Which means they’re not really ready to buy. If you have Google Adsense or some other CPC ads on your blog these are the people who are more likely to click through on those ads. They’re still looking and you’ve given them another resource.

Referral Traffic

Referral traffic comes through the various social networks and bookmarking sites and the links you’ve attracted and created while linkbuilding. Again, with Google analytics you’ll see them listed out individually so you can see exactly where that traffic is coming from.

Referral traffic is important because it’s like word of mouth advertising. These visitors have seen your link somewhere and most likely it’s from someone they trust – a friend in a social network or another blogger whose opinion they value. So these visitors are already looking at you as a credible source of information.

The value of referral traffic is that they already have a certain level of trust in you and they’re more likely to share your content because they know others trust you, too. They’re also more likely to turn into customers which makes referral traffic important if you’re promoting affiliate products or your own products or services. They’re less likely to click on Adsense ads because they came to your blog specifically to see what you had to offer, however they’re more likely to click on CPA ads because they trust your judgment.

Direct Traffic

Direct traffic comes to your blog … directly. They’ve either bookmarked your site or they know your domain name and can type it out exactly into their search bar. Most people don’t just arbitrarily bookmark a site or remember the domain name so this means you’ve already made quite an impression. They love you and they want to be able to instantly click through to your blog.

These visitors are more likely to share your content and if they’re also bloggers they’re likely to link to your blog, which helps increase your rankings and referral traffic. They’re also the most likely to turn into repeat customers or click on CPA ads because they have such a high level of trust but they’ll probably never click on Adsense ads because there not looking for more information – they’ve found everything they want on your blog.

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  1. Excellent explanation. Thanks for making this very clear, not only what each type of traffic is but also why each is important.

    1. You’re welcome Carolyn! That’s what I do ;)

  2. Eric Butts

    This is good info. My question is what happens when you find out your traffic source is drastically different than your target initially? Would you change your content or consciously start to focus your efforts on the referral source generating high traffic? It’s funny how these things can kinda take on a mind of their own to some degree.

    1. I would advise you to not change your existing content. But instead, ask yourself a few questions: does your current traffic convert? did you make a mistake when picking your target in the beginning?

      If you really want to shift your target, I would advise you to write new content targeted specifically to that new audience and try finding new promotion methods that will get a better response on that source.

  3. Very clear explanation, even for beginners. Thanks for this :)

    1. You’re welcome Sandy ;)

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