What are the types of website traffic?

May 29th, 2024

Analytics data is a key resource if you are looking to improve the performance of your brand website. Using platforms such as Google Analytics 4 (GA4), you can get all sorts of insights into how users interact with your website, from which pages they visit to how long they spend on the site and more.

One such metric to pay attention to is website traffic, a key performance indicator (KPI) for many website owners. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of website traffic.

Simply put, website traffic is the metric used to measure how many people visit your site within a given time period. It doesn’t measure how many pages they visit, what they do once they reach your site or whether they convert by making a purchase or enquiry – it’s just the number of people who arrive at your website.

Despite being very simple, it’s a crucial metric. The more people who visit your site, the more opportunities you will have to convert a visitor into a customer. However, you can break down the traffic reaching your website into different categories based on where the traffic is coming from. This can help you to gain even more insights and shape your strategy going forward to achieve your business goals.

Below are some of the most common standard categories of traffic. To go further and track specific traffic sources, you can customise your analytics tracking to do so, allowing you to separate out email campaign traffic from QR code traffic, for example. However, the below categories are the ones every site owner should recognise and understand.

What is referral traffic?

Referral traffic, like the name suggests, denotes visitors who have been referred to your website by clicking on a link from a third party website. This can refer to backlinks included in online articles, listings within business directories and even links shared on social media sites.

While you can’t control who links to your website, there are things you can do to boost referral traffic. A good social media strategy can get your posts seen by a whole new audience who could click through to your site, and making sure your business is listed in all the relevant directories can also help.

What is direct traffic?

Direct traffic doesn’t require the user to make a search, click on an ad or visit a third party website in order to reach your site. Examples of direct traffic include when a user types your URL directly into the address bar, loads the site from a bookmark or their search history, or clicks on a link somewhere else, such as within an email, a word document or a QR code, for example.

One of the benefits of having a short, simple URL is that it is easier for potential users to remember and type it into their browser to get to your site quickly. However, these URLs can be more rare due to their desirability.

What is organic traffic?

Organic traffic relates solely to users of your site who come from unpaid sources, such as a social media post that attracts attention. The term is often confused with organic search traffic, which is traffic that comes from unpaid search results. These are anything that comes up when you search a given term that isn’t marked as a paid ad or sponsored result. These rankings are organic because you can’t directly control them – there’s nothing you can do to guarantee you will get the top organic result spot.

However, this isn’t to say there is nothing you can do to influence your position within organic search. In fact, this is what search engine optimisation (SEO) aims to do. By improving your website with a combination of technical fixes and creating high quality, helpful content, you can encourage search engines to rank your site’s pages higher within results and therefore increase your chances of attracting organic search traffic.

Although Google is generally the most popular search engine, organic traffic also takes into account traffic from other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo. To find out which search engine your website visitors use most, you would need to delve deeper into your analytics data.

What is paid traffic?

In contrast to organic traffic, paid traffic refers to any visitors who come to your website via a paid promotion. This usually encompasses all kinds of ads online, whether they are pay-per-click (PPC) ads listed in search results (paid search) or ads on social media (paid social media or PSO). Again, you can use analytics tools to narrow down which kinds of paid media campaigns are bringing in the most traffic for you.

You might think that paid traffic guarantees visitors to your site, but it’s not quite as simple as that. In some forms of advertising, you pay regardless of whether anyone views or engages with your ad. In others, such as PPC, you only pay when a user clicks on the ad and is taken to your site, but there’s no guarantee that the user will like what they see or go on to make a purchase. In paid media strategies, you don’t so much pay for traffic as pay for a premium spot from which to showcase your brand.

As we’ve mentioned, you can customise your analytics setup to further break down your traffic figures into categories to help you better understand how your website is attracting visitors. By understanding these four key categories, you’re well on your way to determining which strategy will most benefit your brand to help achieve your business goals.

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