4 Types of Web Traffic Every Small Business Needs

Posted July 02, 2015

By Larry Alton

Your website serves as a gateway to your business. The more people that see your brand online, the more potential customers you stand to gain. Logically, if you can find a way to increase the amount of traffic to your site, you'll enjoy a greater number of eventual customers and transactions.

Unfortunately, increasing website traffic isn't always as simple as it sounds. There isn't any one trick or tactic that suddenly funnels more people to your site. Instead, the most successful online marketing strategies usually incorporate multiple channels simultaneously.

If you're new to the world of online marketing, that approach can seem overwhelming. But if you boil down the potential sources of traffic to four main categories, it's easier to visualize your overarching campaign.

Understanding the 4 Main Types of Web Traffic

1. Direct Traffic

Direct traffic consists of people who enter your site directly into their web browser in order to visit. These people already know about your brand; otherwise, they wouldn't have any means of accessing your site. For most established businesses, direct traffic is a result of long-term brand familiarity or repeat visits. For other brands, it's attributable to an offline advertising or marketing strategy. For example, if you publish and distribute a series of brochures that showcase your website, it could encourage direct traffic.

An increase of direct traffic without a significant increase in offsite marketing is generally an indication of increased brand awareness. Unlike referral, organic, and search traffic, direct traffic is difficult to scale, making it one of the less effective sources of traffic in the long term.

 small business marketing: website traffic

2. Referral Traffic

These are people who find your site through external links located throughout the Web. For example, if you publish a press release with a link back to your site and someone chooses to click and follow that link, that person is considered a referral visitor. Referral traffic is simple to increase; the more links you have, and the more links you have on high-authority or popular sources, the more people will want to follow your links and get to your site.

However, be careful building links for your referral traffic efforts; if Google's search bots determine that you're spamming people or building low-quality links, you could get yourself penalized, which could completely compromise your organic traffic efforts. Instead, focus on building links on the highest quality sources you can find, and use your links as a way to provide value to readers, not just as a gimmicky route to your site.

3. Organic Traffic

These people found your website through an online search. While more than two-thirds of all online searches go through Google, traffic from Bing and Yahoo are also included in the organic traffic metric. The way to increase your organic search traffic is through search engine optimization (SEO), which is a collection of strategies that make your site more authoritative and increase your ranks for various search terms.

Organic traffic is highly scalable, meaning the more effort you put into it, the greater returns you'll see, and those returns will show an exponential return. You may need several onsite fixes to make sure that Google can see your full site and see it as an authority, but the big factor responsible for increasing search ranks is high-quality content. Aside from that, offsite links and an active social media presence can do wonders helping you out—and you'll tackle those simply by addressing numbers 2 and 4 on this list.

4. Social Traffic

As you might imagine, social traffic consists of people who found and visited your site through links on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Like organic traffic, social traffic is highly scalable—the more followers you gain, the easier it will be to cultivate even more followers, and eventually you'll have a torrent of new social visitors on a daily basis. The key is to post updates consistently and to engage your followers as often as possible. Your goal should be to build and engage a community, not just to have a token social presence.

Over time, you'll likely notice that certain social platforms bring you more traffic than others. When you get to that point, be sure to adjust your strategy to favor those more efficient platforms.

As part of your online marketing campaign, you'll need to measure these traffic sources regularly, and determine which are the most effective and which ones require more effort to become successful. Fortunately, measuring these traffic sources is a relatively easy process.

Log into Google Analytics and check out the Acquisition tab. Under "Acquisition – Overview" you'll find a useful chart that compares these four sources of traffic against one another, so you can keep tabs on your growth and discover which channels are the most effective for your business.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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