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Sources of Traffic to Your Website

You might be meticulously crafting content for your primary audience, but what if I told you a significant chunk of your website’s traffic is coming from unexpected corners of the internet?

Picture this: Mr. Green, a website owner, is focused on creating great content and promoting it on social media. He doesn’t realize that most of his visitors actually come from organic searches and referrals, not just social media. Because he’s not tracking where his traffic comes from he’s missing out on chance to attract even more visitors.

Don’t be like Mr. Green. Avoid tunnel vision that can harm your growth by understanding all the sources of traffic your website receives. Track and study your website visits to understand what works and fix what doesn’t.

Okay, without further ado, let’s dive into sources of traffic to your website!

Table of Contents for Sources of Traffic to Your Website

Traffic Sources for Websites

woman pondering sources of traffic to your website

Have you ever wondered why some visitors stick around on your site longer than others? The answer often lies in where your traffic comes from. For example, visitors from email marketing or referrals typically engage more with your content than those from display ads. This difference in engagement can significantly impact your site’s success.

Understanding the various traffic sources and their unique benefits and drawbacks is vital. Are you pouring resources into traffic sources that yield low engagement? Maybe it’s time to reconsider and tap into more traditional channels that could offer better returns. Sounds like a smart move, right?

Different sources, different engagement levels: Realize that not all visitors are created equal. Some will interact more with your content, while others might just skim through. Channel your efforts and budget into sources that promise the highest returns for your website.

Now, let’s dive into exploring the diverse traffic sources for your website. Do you know which ones are currently driving your online presence? Let’s find out.

Organic Search (SEO)

organic search traffic is one of the sources of traffic to your website

Have you ever considered what drives traffic to most websites? It’s usually organic search traffic, that is traffic from Google and other search engines. This traffic is free – in terms of money – but not in terms of time and effort.

You receive organic search traffic when your content ranks highly in Google, or other search engines, resulting in searchers clicking on your content from a search engine results page (SERP). Sounds good, right?

But here’s the catch: To achieve a high ranking position in Google you need to use keywords effectively. Keywords are what searchers type into Google when they look for content.

You will need to invest in a keyword research tool to find the more effective keywords for your content niche. Here are some factors to consider when deciding which keywords to target:

  • Keyword Difficulty: a score between 1-100 indicating how hard it is to rank for that keyword
  • Monthly Search Volume
  • Competition: How much competition the keyword has
  • Word Count: Filter by the number of words in the keyphrase

There are other filter criteria you could add but those above are the ones I would focus on, especially when beginning keyword research. Fancy a sneak peek into the world of keyword research reports? Check out the widget below and type in a phrase, for example, “rock garden decor”:

Direct Traffic

Direct traffic is simply people directly going to your website by typing in your website URL. Perhaps they saw your website URL from a business card or flyer or even verbally. Whatever way they found it, they typed it into their browser to visit your website.

Think of it as the digital equivalent of a customer walking straight into a store because they’re already familiar with the brand. There’s no middleman, no advertisements, and no referrals – just a straight line from them to you.

Established brands like Nike often receive a lot of direct traffic. For example, if you see a Nike shoe ad and later type ‘‘ into your browser, that counts as direct traffic.

How to Increase Direct Traffic to Your Website

Here are some ways to distribute your website URL to potential customers:

  • Email Signature: Include your URL in your email signature.
  • Business Cards: Print your URL on business cards.
  • Flyers/Banners: Advertise with flyers or banners carrying your URL.
  • Branded Merchandise: Distribute items like t-shirts or mugs featuring your URL.
  • Freebies: Offer free items like mouse pads or calendars with your URL with purchases.
  • Podcasts/Interviews: Mention your URL during media appearances.
  • Word of Mouth: Encourage friends and associates to spread the word.

Simplify your URL: Make sure it’s memorable and easy to type

Referral Traffic

backlinks are like golden links to your website

Referrals traffic is traffic you receive from referrals. Other websites can link to your website, either the home page or more likely a specific page directly.

These golden links from external sites, known as backlinks, aren’t just casual nods of acknowledgment. Google sees backlinks as robust endorsements, elevating your content in the highly competitive search listings. A search traffic study in 2020 determined one of the many reasons sites don’t receive any traffic is a lack of backlinks.

A healthy backlinks profile signals good relationship building within your community and an indication to Google your website is trustworthy and credible.

So, now we know the importance of backlinks the obvious next question is how to do I get them? That’s not so easy as it requires other people to link to your website.

Here are some suggested strategies to get backlinks:

  • Create High-Quality Content: Produce informative, engaging, and valuable content that naturally attracts backlinks because others find it useful or interesting. (Source: Google, SEO Starter Guide)
  • Guest Blogging: Write articles for other websites in your industry. In return, you often get a backlink to your own site within the article or author bio.
  • Broken Link Building: Find broken links on other sites that are relevant to your content. Reach out to the webmaster to report the broken link and suggest your content as a replacement.
  • Infographics and Visual Content: Create visually appealing infographics or other graphic content. Visual content tends to get shared and linked to more frequently.
  • Resource Page Link Building: Identify resource pages within your niche and reach out to the owners with content that could add value to their page, suggesting they include a link to your site.
  • Use Social Media and Forums: Share your content on social media and niche forums to gain visibility, which can lead to natural backlinks. More on this later in the article.
  • HARO (Help a Reporter Out): Sign up for HARO or other similar services to get opportunities to provide expert input on various topics, which can lead to high-quality backlinks from news sites and other authoritative publications.
  • Industry Partnerships: Collaborate with non-competing businesses in your industry to cross-promote content or products, which can include backlink exchanges.
  • Directories and Local Listings: Submit your site to relevant and authoritative directories and business listings for a backlink.
  • Conduct Original Research or Surveys: Data-driven content, like original research or survey results, can generate backlinks as others reference your findings.
  • Skyscraper Technique: Find top-performing content in your niche and create something better. Then reach out to those who linked to the original content and show them your improved version.
  • Leverage Influencers: Work with influencers who might review your product or service and provide a backlink to your site.
  • Host Webinars or Online Workshops: These can attract backlinks from attendees and industry sites that list webinars.
  • Link Reclamation: Find mentions of your brand that don’t include a link and contact the publisher to request they turn the mention into a backlink.

Remember, the quality of backlinks is far more important than quantity.

Social Media Traffic

young people using their phones and laptops at a coffee shop

Social media is a powerhouse for potential traffic. To tap into it, actively share your website’s content on these networks and include a direct link to your site.

Don’t overlook the power of your social media bio – it’s prime real estate for your website’s link. This way, anyone intrigued by your profile can click straight through to your website.

Adapt your existing content for each social media platform. Take a blog post and carve it into a series of engaging tweets or a thread on X (previously known as Twitter), ensuring you include a link to the original post. This technique invites followers to explore the full story on your website.

Consider the unique audiences of each social platform. You want to be where your content naturally aligns with the interests of the users. Can you see the benefit of selecting the right platforms to meet your audience where they are?

Get your website the attention it deserves by using social media to increase the reach of your content and acquire new readers.

Showcase snippets of your content on social media and invite curious minds to discover more on your website.

For new website owners and bloggers, paid traffic can be a valuable tool for boosting visibility and attracting visitors quickly.

Paid traffic refers to visitors that come to your website as a result of paid advertising. Unlike organic traffic, which comes naturally over time from search engines, paid traffic is obtained through active marketing campaigns.

Platforms for Paid Advertising

Google Ads: Probably the most well-known platform, it allows you to place ads in Google’s search results and on other Google properties.

Social Media Advertising: Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, X (formally Twitter), and LinkedIn offer their own advertising solutions tailored to their specific audiences.

Tips for Effective Paid Traffic Campaigns

  • Start Small: Begin with a small budget to test the waters and increase your investment as you understand what works for you.
  • Focus on Quality: Ensure your ads and landing page are high-quality and relevant to your audience. Avoid spammy ads.
  • Monitor Your Campaigns: Regularly check the performance of your campaigns and make adjustments as needed.

You need to make sure the cost of acquisition of a new customer is less than their lifetime value to you. In short, as your customer base expands so does your profits. (Sounds obvious I know but some businesses get this wrong).

Monitor your return on investment (ROI) carefully.

Affiliate Traffic

Ever curious about how affiliate traffic boosts your website? Picture affiliates as your own team of enthusiastic promoters. They’re like megaphones amplifying your business to the world. Whether they’re bloggers or social media influencers, they use a special tool: the affiliate link.

Imagine affiliate links as digital doorbells, each ringing with the unique sound of an affiliate ID. This ID informs the affiliate network about the promoter’s identity before guiding the visitor to your site. It’s like hearing a knock at your door from a potential customer, their interest already piqued by your affiliate’s efforts. All that’s left for you is to welcome them in and close the sale. Isn’t this a remarkably efficient way to draw in customers?

Businesses love affiliates because they pay commissions solely on results.

What are the fees?

You’re probably wondering about the costs involved. Here’s the deal: you pay a commission fee for each sale made through an affiliate link. The best part? You have the power to set this fee. Naturally, a higher commission can attract more affiliates to promote your business.

Worried about budget constraints? Don’t be. Typically, you’ll face a one-time merchant setup fee. Beyond that, your expenses are limited to the commission on actual sales and a small percentage to the affiliate network. It’s a pay-for-performance model that keeps your costs aligned with your success. Sounds fair, doesn’t it?

Affiliate traffic is the highest of high quality traffic you can get. As a new website owner or blogger, leveraging affiliates to sell your products or services could be a huge win.

ShareASale is a well-known affiliate network that has over 270,000 affiliates. That could be a big marketing team for your business. Check them out below.

ShareASale Affiliate Network

Email Marketing

Email marketing is an old-fashioned but still hugely successful way of contacting potential or existing customers by sending them occasional newsletters.

Your newsletters, sprinkled with engaging articles, vibrant images, and compelling links, invite readers to delve into your content. This simple yet effective method can turn a curious reader into a loyal customer or even rekindle the interest of a previous one. Isn’t it amazing how some old-school tactics still hold their ground in the digital era?

Here’s your action plan:

  1. Partner Up: Start by joining forces with an email marketing provider – many offer free plans to get you off the ground.
  2. The Welcome Mat: Roll out the red carpet with a newsletter sign-up form, inviting visitors to join your list right on your site, whether it’s in the sidebar or nestled within each blog post.
  3. Build Your Community: Collect email addresses to grow a community keen on hearing from you.
  4. Send Love Notes: Craft and dispatch newsletters that spark interest and build connections.
  5. Celebrate New Bonds: Watch as your newsletters help secure sales and foster new customer relationships!

These email services come with a smart twist: segmentation. It’s like hosting a party and separating the guests based on dietary preferences – meat, vegan or vegetarian. This means you can tailor your offers and content to suit the tastes of your guests.

Ever heard of a drip campaign? It’s a series of emails that gently cascade into your subscribers’ inboxes, nurturing them with stories about your brand, your products, and the values you stand for.

The cherry on top? Access to a huge range of professional email templates. With intuitive drag-and-drop tools, you can dress your message up to impress and run a quick test before you send it out to the crowd.

With every newsletter you send, you’re steering a conversation, opening a dialogue, and inviting a response. Isn’t that what every savvy website owner seeks?

Budget-friendly Email Marketing Tools

Ensure you follow the legal guidelines like the CAN-SPAM Act or GDPR, which protect consumer privacy and maintain trust in your brand.

Offline Promotions

professional man at a networking event

Even in the digital age, offline promotion can be a powerful tool to drive traffic to your website. Here are several budget-friendly offline strategies:

  1. Networking Events: Attend local networking events, trade shows, and conferences relevant to your industry. Bring business cards that include your website URL and a reason to visit, such as a special offer.
  2. Local Partnerships: Partner with other local businesses to promote each other’s websites. This could be through flyers, posters, or even mentions at each other’s locations.
  3. Public Speaking: Offer to speak at local events or workshops, establishing yourself as an expert in your field. Mention your website during your talk and in any handouts.
  4. Flyers: Incorporate your website into all your print materials like business cards, flyers, brochures, and posters. Include a QR code to make it easy for people to visit your site.
  5. Direct Mail: Send out postcards or letters to a targeted list of potential customers with an exclusive offer that directs them to your website.
  6. Local Media: Write press releases for local newspapers, radio stations, or community magazines. Pitch stories related to your business that would interest local readers and include your website URL.
  7. Community Involvement: Sponsor or participate in community events. This can be anything from charity runs to local festivals, where you can distribute merchandise or literature with your website information.
  8. Branded Merchandise: Create merchandise such as pens, notepads, or stickers with your website’s URL. Give them away at events or in your physical storefront if you have one.
  9. Vehicle Branding: If you have a car, consider getting a car magnet or decal with your website address on it. It’s a one-time cost that ensures your website gets seen all over town.
  10. Word-of-Mouth: Encourage friends, family, and satisfied customers to spread the word about your website. Sometimes, a recommendation can be the most effective form of promotion.

How viable these options are depends on your specific budget constraints.

Remember, the key to offline promotion is to have a clear call-to-action that directs people to your website.

Don’t forget to track your offline promotions (use a landing page or specific URL)

Influencer Collaborations

Is collaborating with an influencer a viable strategy for website owners who don’t have big budgets? Yes, just set your sights a little low – we are not talking about a collab with Kim Kardashian. Join forces with micro-influencers. They’re hidden gems in a vast sea of voices – smaller but with deeply engaged niche audiences.

Here’s how you can make this work for you:

  1. Seek Authenticity: Look for influencers who mirror your target audience and share a real bond with their followers.
  2. Smart Partnerships: Rather than shelling out hefty fees, why not try a product swap, an affiliate link arrangement, or a pay-for-performance deal?
  3. Create Together: Forge a campaign that blends your vision with the influencer’s creative flair. This gives birth to content that’s as authentic as it is engaging.
  4. Measure the Magic: Use unique promo codes or tracking links to keep a close eye on your success metrics.
  5. Stay Transparent: Clarity is key – ensure influencers are upfront with their audience about your partnership.

Start small and think of each collaboration as sowing a seed for future growth. It’s not just about the immediate payoff – it’s about cultivating a network of voices that amplify your brand, incrementally boosting your site’s traffic and visibility.

Forums & Community Discussions

Why not build authority within online forums and discussion groups? It’s important to remember, though, that these communities frown upon link spamming. In fact, indiscriminate promotion will likely get you banned quickly.

However, there’s a strategy to this: invest time in providing thoughtful answers and meaningful interactions. By consistently adding value, you earn the community’s trust. Over time, as a respected member, you might earn the privilege to share your content, in accordance with the community guidelines, of course.

And what if direct linking is frowned upon? No worries, simply include your website URL in your forum profile. It’s a subtle invitation for others to learn more about you and your work.

Useful Online Communities for Website Owners


Reddit is an online community platform that operates as a collection of forums where people can discuss anything from news and hobbies to specific interests and ideas.

Reddit is structured into subreddits, which are topic-specific channels where members can post questions and links to external content. These posts can be upvoted or downvoted by others, determining their visibility on the site.

Website: Reddit


Quora is an online platform centered around questions and answers where users can ask questions on many topics, and the community of users provide detailed answers.

It operates on a model that allows users to upvote responses they find useful, which helps to surface the best answers to the top and makes them more visible to other users.

Website: Quora

Engaging on platforms like Reddit or Quora not only builds your audience but can also inspire content creation. Ever consider turning a trending community question into a blog post? It’s a win-win: you address common queries and draw in readers seeking solutions.

RSS Feeds

RSS feeds may seem retro, yet they remain a potent tool for driving traffic to your website. If you’re using a modern blogging platform like WordPress, it’s already doing the heavy lifting by generating an RSS feed for you – no extra effort required on your part.

Think of it this way: An RSS feed is like a subscription service for your content. Readers who don’t want to miss out on your latest posts can simply subscribe to your feed. With an RSS reader, they’ll get updates automatically. It’s like having a direct line between your website and your followers. Simple, isn’t it?

Use RSS Feeds to keep your audience reading your content

Website Security and Its Impact on Traffic

fortify your website

It can be startling to realize that nearly 50% of web traffic globally comes from bots, not humans (Source: Bot Stats 2022).

Now – before you panic – not all bots are bad. For instance, Google uses a bot to crawl your website, it’s called Googlebot, not a very imaginative name but if you see it in your traffic log you can relax, it’s just Google crawling your site.

However, bad bots account for 30% of all internet traffic. (Source: Bot Stats 2022).

The sheer volume of non-human traffic can skew analytics and affect your understanding of the real audience.

Picture your website as a store bustling with activity. Now, imagine if half of those coming in were only there to cause chaos or take without buying. You’d want security at the door, right? This is exactly the role robust website security measures play. They filter out the nefarious bots while allowing helpful ones, like Googlebot, to do their beneficial work.

With top-notch security in place, your analytics get cleaner, sharper, and more reflective of actual human visitors.

To harden your website, I suggest installing a reputable security plugin. This acts as your digital “bouncer,” keeping your online environment secure and your data insightful. They help protect your site from the following bad actors:

  • Hackers
  • Spammers
  • Malware and Viruses
  • Ransomware Gangs
  • Malicious bots

For WordPress users, SiteGround provides a free plugin that helps secure your website. It’s easy to use and should make it harder for bad actors to break into your site.

Get SiteGround Security Plugin

Still, even with extra security your website could still be hacked. That’s why it’s imperative you take regular backups of your website.

Ideally, your site should be backing up automatically every day. Does your hosting provider offer this? It’s worth a check. If not, it’s wise to use a plugin that handles daily backups for you. Think of it as insurance for your online presence – you hope to never need it, but should disaster strike, you’ll be relieved you have it.

Using Analytics to Understand Traffic Sources

analytics software to determine sources of traffic to your website

Analytics software is used to monitor and track visitors to your website. It’s essential you have this software installed on your website otherwise you will have no clue where you visitors are coming from. Luckily, you can get basic metrics monitor completely free from many analytics companies.

Simple Setup Steps for Analytics

Many good quality analytics tools are available. For this example I will use Clicky. It’s user-friendly and perfect for newcomers. Other tools will have a similar setup.

Get Clicky
  1. Register: Simply sign up for a free account. You’ll be handed a unique tracking code – this is your key to unlocking a world of data.
  2. Install Clicky: Add the clicky script and tracking code directly to your website.
  3. Easy Integration: For WordPress enthusiasts and those using other platforms, breathe easy – plugins are ready to whisk Clicky into your pages with ease.

And with that, you’re done. You can now track visitors to your website – for free! When you have more visitors and you want more fancy metrics and features you can always upgrade to a paid plan.

Clicky traffic sources report - one of many reports available once installed on your website
Clicky traffic sources report – one of many reports available once installed on your website

Do remember to check all your metrics on a regular basis – not just sources of traffic. Check out some other articles on important metrics to check for your webiste.

Important Metrics for Website Traffic

User Engagement Metrics to Track

Final Thoughts for Sources of Traffic to Your Website

Thanks for reading this article, I hope you found it informative and useful. Here is a quick recap:

  • Track and study all the sources of traffic to your website
  • Traffic sources #1: Organic Search, Referrals, Social Media Traffic
  • Traffic sources #2: Paid Traffic (Ads), Affiliate, Email Marketing
  • Traffic sources #3: Email Marketing, Offline Promotions, Influencer collabs
  • Traffic sources #4: Forums and Community Sites and RSS Feeds
  • Harden your web server against bots – they skew your visitor traffic
  • Use analytics software to track all your website visitors

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