There are three major ways visitors reach your website. Direct traffic, search engines and link referrals. Knowing where visitors come from helps us identify areas of opportunity. At the same we can also determine weak areas that we should exert more effort on.
This visitor traffic source refers to visitors coming to our website through bookmarks, directly typing our website URL or other means that appears we are typing the address of a website onto a web browser. Direct traffic is also mostly attributed to links coming from email marketing campaigns. Why mostly? You’ll find out below.
To achieve this type of traffic, our pages should facilitate easy bookmarking for our visitors. This can be in the form of “Bookmark This” buttons placed prominently in the page so that a click will automatically add our site to browser bookmarks for easy reference. More importantly, and unfortunately more difficult to maintain, is that content of our website is reasonably good enough for someone to bookmark it. Almost nobody wants to bookmark an uninteresting page.
This visitor traffic source refers to external sites your visitors previously visited before reaching your website. It can be a directory that lists down your website or a link from a blog that used one of your pages as reference. There are two benefits of obtaining links. First, it delivers traffic and second, it enforces the importance of our page to rank well in search engines (see caveat below).
To achieve good amount of visitors from referring sites, our sites should be linked from multiple high-traffic websites. Getting links from many websites is not enough especially if most of them are either obscure and have very few visitors or even good ones but placed a link to our site on a location hardly noticed by anyone. In terms of search engine visibility benefits, links obtained from related pages are given more credibility. Therefore, even if we think that there is a relationship between a wedding blog and PC hardware blog, search engines may not agree and don’t put much credit on such links.
This visitor traffic source refers to visitors who previously visited a search engine (Google, Yahoo!, Baidu, Bing or others), searched a term, found our page on search results and visitors clicked on them. Because these search engines (mentioned above) are recognized by Google Analytics, there are automatically categorized under “Search Engines”. Others that aren’t categorized yet will simply fall under “Referring Sites” but can easily be added to “Search Engines” if needed be.
To achieve more traffic from search engines, a website should first be found within search engine index. To accomplish this, our website should easily allow search engines to visit web pages through proper navigation, linking and content structure. Once our pages are indexed, they will get a chance to appear on search results once a visitor types a relevant search query. Unfortunately, it is also possible to rank on top of search results but yield no traffic. This is because our site might rank on top of a search query that almost nobody uses. In order to achieve more visitors from search engines, we should target good rankings for competitive keywords. Meaning, keywords that many people are probably using. To determine competitiveness of keywords (at least in Google), AdWords keyword tool will be helpful.
It is also possible to see “Other” as Traffic Sources. This is the answer to the why most traffic coming from links on email marketing campaigns are Direct Traffic. It’s because there are cases when traffic from EDMs fall under this category. How so? If we use URL builder to tag our campaign links so we can properly measure traffic sources, Google Analytics reads the information differently from the three above (Direct Traffic, Referring Sites and Search Engines). This is generally a catch-all category that represents any source not falling into the above categories and is usually insignificant.