Where Does Your Website Traffic Come From?

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Some of the most important website statistics that you can find in your Google Analytics reports can be found under “traffic sources”.  When you look at your traffic sources overview, you see that Google reports statistics by “Direct Traffic, Referring Sites and “Search Engines”.

Which Source of Website Traffic is Best for You?

I did a quick Google search to see if I could find a general consensus amongst the “experts” as to what they thought was the best traffic source for a blog. There are varying opinions and the general consensus is that it depends on what sort of a blog you have and what you want your website visitors to do once they come to your site.

If you’re monetizing your blog to earn income though affiliate programs or advertising (such as Google AdSense ads), you need to have your blog optimized for the keywords that your potential customers will be searching on (SEO). Therefore, for you, it’s good if the bulk of your traffic comes from search engines. This logic also applies if your entire site is built around a specific product line. You want to show up in the search engines, preferably in the free organic searches.

If you’re building your brand and want your potential clients/customers to look at you as an authority in your area of expertise, you probably blog on a variety of topics. For example, I may be talking about PPC (pay-per-click) advertising one week and copyright infringement the next. It’s more important to me to build trust and confidence with a specific audience than it is for casual website surfers to find me online. Therefore, for you and me, it’s good to have a significant percentage of our traffic coming directly to our site or from referral sites. We need to have solid back-links and votes of confidence from other authority sites.

Is all Twitter Traffic Reported Under “Referring Sites”?

Although I try to optimize this blog for the search engines, my marketing efforts are spent on the social networking aspect. 70% of the traffic to this blog is either direct or from referring sites. I focus a good part of my time and energy on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and my analytics reflect that.

My Google Analytics for last month shows that 42% of my traffic is referral traffic with 51% of that coming from Twitter. (Considering I probably spend less than an hour a day on Twitter, I think that’s a good ROI.)

Then yesterday while I was Googling, I came across this article “Stop Giving Away Your Twitter Traffic  in Google Analytics!” by Will Reynolds of SEER Interactive. According to Will, “A Majority of twitter referrals will show up as Direct Traffic in Google Analytics!” Will attributes this to the use of 3rd party apps like Tweetdeck which does not pass on referral information.

Will does go on to provide a fix that can be used but I think I’ll just sit back and hope that Google figures out a way to handle this. After all, for my purposes, I’m fine with either direct or referral traffic. Since I’m already happy with the amount of traffic that I believe I’m generating from Twitter. I’m going to continue following the strategy that I already have for Twitter.

This article did pique my interest though. Am I getting even more traffic from Twitter than I thought? Are you? What are you thoughts? Do you have any more insight into this? Which of your traffic sources do you keep the closest eye on?

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Author: Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

53 thoughts on “Where Does Your Website Traffic Come From?”

  1. Google Analytics reports are the best free tools out there. I check these daily and love the iPhone application that reports back the data better than the online Google version. Most of my traffic id from organic Google searches.

    1. I’ve always relied on Google Analytics myself but lately I’ve been reading some great reviews about Clicky real time analytics. I haven’t checked it out myself yet but I definitely planning on it. Anyone who is interested in learning more about this alternative to GA can check out GetClicky.com. One of the positives that I’ve heard about it is that it’s much easier to track goals.

      If anyone has anything to add about Clicky, I’d love to hear it!
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..Top 8 White Hat SEO Tips for E-Commerce WebsitesMy Profile

  2. You have got a very nice blog here. Most of my blogs’ traffic are from social networking sites, especially facebook. They are very helpful for generating lot of traffic to my sites. Thank you for writing such a educative blog post. Hoping to see more from you.

  3. I was able to learn this stuffs from The Perpetual Traffic Report by Ryan Deiss..
    Doing blog comments on blog sites that are relevant to your sites.. For example our site do Business Loans and other types of lending, then that means I should focus on doing comments on blogs related to Loans, NO. It doesn’t work that way anymore. I tried to search for business loan blogs but there are only few of them, some does not allows us to comment, some are nofollow links, and sometimes we just run out of blogs to do comment – that if we keep our attention to blogs only related to our niche. But if we expand our imagination and try to look at those other topics with good PR results, we might get the traffic we wanted with good quality links!

    1. John, I would think that blogs targeting start-up businesses and entrepreneurs would be good places for you to comment. For example, if you commented on a blog written by a business consultant, some of their readers may be in a position to use your services. I think establishing a presence on blogs that offer services that are complimentary to yours would be a place to start. Another idea would be for you to be an active participant in LinkedIn groups. I never shamelessly promote my services but I have been approached by people in these groups who have found my posts to be very helpful. A few of these people are now clients.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..3 Steps to Protect Your WordPress Blog from HackersMy Profile

  4. Topic raised here is so relevant, That from where this traffic came from. All wants to increase traffic on their site but most of them actually don’t know about it.

  5. The main sources of traffic to my websites are the following: search engines, social networks, guest posts, article directories, social bookmarks and blog comments.

  6. Interesting post. I mostly talk about traffic but didn’t gave much importance to this side. That from where it comes from actually. Will try google analytics also.

  7. Wow! That is a large chunk of traffic coming from twitter for only an hour spent a day! I think it is crucial to understand where traffic is coming from because then you can really focus your efforts on methods and websites that work!


  8. Nice article. Full of valuable information. However, Paying attention to all traffic sources can help in managing marketing efforts. It’s a simple good article regarding knowledge of traffic.

  9. WOWWW… I didn’t know about the Twitter referrals and traffic reporting until today, and feel silly for missing it. We’ve only started developing our social efforts to bring more social / direct traffic!

    1. Google Analytics can be overwhelming to weed through because there’s so much information there. I usually keep track of where I’m spending the majority of my efforts throughout the month (using a spreadsheet) and then at the end of the month, I look at GA to see what efforts are paying off. Sometimes, it’s surprising what you’ll find out. Good luck with your efforts!
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..2 Steps to Stalking the Popular Kids and Getting More TrafficMy Profile

  10. thanks Sherryl. As an affiliate marketer myself, I would like to emphasize to my peers, like you did in your post, to focus mainly on increasing the traffic which comes from search engines because the majority of this traffic are prospective ready-to-buy clients who are looking for a specific keyword and land in our page. Also their bounce rate is low, which is good, whereas traffic that comes from social media most of the times increases the average bounce rate because it consists mainly of people who just want to check something out and leave.

    1. Thanks Steven for letting us know that search traffic does work well for affiliate marketers.

      As for bounce rates, I think no matter where your traffic comes from, blog posts are always going to have a slightly higher bounce rate. People come, read the article that drew them there and then leave – especially if they’re not a first time visitor. I think if your content is good, a new visitor to your blog will poke around your site. I think people who are already following you will quickly leave and come back when they know that you have new content. That’s why I believe it’s so important to give people as many opportunities to connect with your as possible.

      1. that’s true. Networking increases one’s potential. thanks for answering my comment:)

  11. Wow Sherryl, you opened up my eyes! Get more than half my readers from referrals, mainly Linkedin, 39% from search engines, mainly Google and 16% direct traffic. Interesting to note that a lot of that may be Twitter. Stumbleupon is actually the forth largest provider of visitors. And Twitter is number 5. Susan mentioned that she just switched to the twitter button, which you have on your site because you can add Google analytics to the settings. What’s that plug-in called?

    1. Catarina,
      I’m using the “Tweet This” plug-in for the Twitter button (near the top of my post) and the “Like” plug-in for the Facebook button next to it. Then, I’m using the “Sociable” plug-in to display share button s after my post.

  12. I get traffic from a variety of sources. One item I look at each day are the words people entered in their search that resulted in them landing on one of my posts. We need to balance the three sources as you have indicated. I use HootSuite and it sounds like that skews other’s statistics. Sorry if that is the case but it makes it much easier for me to use Twitter. Like you said maybe Google will figure it out. Thanks for sharing your experience.


  13. I think the reason you get more traffic from the other sites is that because of “net of the bloggers about social networkin” that appeared in the Net now. And besides, the number of blogs is too high that it’s impossible to get 1st place is SERP for, e.g., “social networking” request. But if you want to attract other visitors, pay more of your attention to other techniques of seo.

  14. Hey Sherryl,

    I agree, the best traffic source for a blog depends on the kind of blog you have and what actions you want them to perform once they reach your site. I think you are getting more traffic from Twitter than you thought according to Will Reynolds’ article.

    My search engine traffic is the traffic source I keep my eye on the most. Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned from your research.

    1. Hi John,

      I checked out your site to get an understanding of what your blog is about and I see that you’re using your blog to drive traffic to a specific site with your call-to-action being to sign up for an email service. This is a good example of someone who wants their traffic to come from the search engines. You’re looking for website visitors who are searching for your service. Thanks for the example!

  15. Excellent analysis, Sherryl. I recently came upon the Blog Tyrant blog which I’ve subscribed to. The author is a 25-year-old Australian. He just did a very insightful post about where your website traffic comes from which I’d recommend reading his post “Are You Stupid? Why Your Readers Might Be Dumber Than You Think”. Don’t be turned off by the title and introduction – scroll down to the graphic showing where most bloggers get their traffic from. He claims that most of your visitors are new to your site and in looking at my Google Analytics I find that to be correct. So what are the implications of that and how do you get people to return? That’s enough for a whole discussion.

    1. Thanks Jeanette. I think it depends on your site and who you’re writing for. While I certainly want to attract new visitors (that’s the only way for my readership to grow), I still want to retain the readers that I have. To me, it’s important to grow trust and a mutually beneficial relationship with my readers. It takes time but that’s what I’m aiming for.

  16. Thanks Sherryl for bringing this to my attention. Unraveling the mystery of Google analytics can result in some pleasant surprises. Will’s article shares how to set up analtyics to monitor specific Twitter campaigns – I can use that. 🙂

  17. Sherryl, thanks for yet another highly relevant post. My analytics shows me that being a guest blogger for my target market (moms on national websites) gives me the greatest spikes. I’m glad to read about the twitter angle being beneficial for you. I’m looking forward to learning how to maximize it as an opportunity for more traffic.

    1. Hi Keyuri,
      That’s great that you’re guest blogging. That’s definitely one of my goals for this year. I have yet to write a guest post!

      When you guest post, can you invite people to follow you on Twitter? That may be a good way to connect with your target market.

  18. The champ is search engine (Google) for my blog in term of traffic source. Based on your article, it is good since my making money online is by utilizing the Google AdSense.

  19. Hi, Sherryl. Paying close attention to our traffic sources really does help in managing our marketing efforts. Knowing helps us learn if what we’ve been doing have been effective. But, even without looking at my statistics, I can say that blog commenting has helped me a lot, not just in increasing my traffic. It has made me more social and helped me connect with people (like you) that offer credible and relevant information that I can really learn from. I think that is real gold. 🙂 Of course, it would be hypocritical of me not to say that I do enjoy the links back as well because that is a definite plus. 😉

    – Wes –

    1. Hi Wes,
      I love the social aspect of networking online. I was a veteran networker years ago and that’s the one thing I missed most about working online. I agree with you that connecting with others online can be real gold. It’s amazing the number of people who I have started following based on a link either in a comment or even Twitter.

  20. I like referred traffic that comes from a Web link because the source often carries a degree of Trust, if only subliminal.

    Twitter is so filled with Post Spam that the title must be interesting, regardless of how much we may trust the Tweeter, who is often simply RT someone out of courtesy rather than genuine Endoursement.

    But twitter does bring traffic, and is my greatest single source of referral traffic. Google sees that, and now considers tweets a form of backlink—although I don’t believe they carry the same Weight as a web article link.

    I would prefer the majority of my new traffic come from weblinks, but I want as much Google traffic as I can get.

    Google is my greatest single source of new traffic.


    1. I’m definitely going to start trying to attract more traffic through Google but it may have to wait until I finish up a few projects around here.

      I am really enjoying this discussion! It’s interesting to hear where everyone is getting their traffic from.

  21. For our website, I like a good mix. I’d say I would want close to 1/3 from each of the major categories – direct, referred, and search engines. Traffic from search engines and referring sites are good because they’re usually from visitors who know what they’re after, and are on a mission. With direct traffic, it’s someone who’s already familiar with us, and has chosen to come back. If I was missing any one of those traffic sources, I’d start to ask questions to figure out what’s wrong.
    TJ McDowell recently posted..1 on 1 SEO Training For PhotographersMy Profile

    1. I need to clean up my Twitter page and take advantage of the new Facebook page. After that, I’m thinking of trying to get more traffic from the search engines. I definitely don’t want to change the networking that I’m doing now but I think your idea of getting 1/3 from each category is something that I may want to try. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  22. Hi Sherryl,

    I just switched to the twitter button, which you have on your site because you can add Google analytics to the settings. It seems that this week I can changes in the referral figures for Twitter, rather than it being lumped into direct visits. I am just watching it at the moment.
    Susan Oakes recently posted..Short Term Gain- Long Term PainMy Profile

    1. That’s great that you have those numbers now. I’ve been noticing my percentage of Twitter followers to be increasing monthly for a while now. I really believe it’s partly due to being careful who I follow back and how I’m tweeting and retweeting.

    1. I use bit.ly too but I honestly never look at the stats there. That’s a good suggestion! I wonder if it would shed light on something that I’ve been missing.

  23. Wow! Hmm. I really hope I am not giving away traffic. Although, the number of direct visits DOES seem strangely high! Especially since logged in users as well as admin visits are not counted.

    Thought-provoking. I think I’ll wait, too.

    I will say that HootSuite visits are specified; I recall seeing HootSuite listed in referral sources.

  24. Since I started using social media this month, I’ve been monitoring my blog traffic like crazy, so this post definitely piqued my interest! I can’t install Google Analytics because I use the free version of WordPress but WordPress Site Stats show that the majority of my traffic comes from social media outlets and when I leave comments on other blogs. I like knowing that I get what I give and I’ve been so fortunate to meet such great people along the way. =)

    Thanks for the insights, Sherryl. =)

    1. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment Samantha. I have a huge appreciation for the value of commenting on blogs and getting to know other bloggers. I always find it valuable to know who I can go for help or support when I need to.

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