Traffic coming from SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is free, while traffic generated from PPC (Pay Per Click) ads is not free. PPC ads are displayed above organic search results or on the sidebar of search engine pages for search queries related to their topic. Landing page keywords, ad keywords, CPC (cost per click) bids, and targeting all influence how those ads are “served” or displayed on the page.
We are in the SEO industry for a while now, wearing many hats: digital marketers, tool developers, advisers, researchers, copywriters, etc. But first of all, we are, just like you, site owners. And we’ve been through ups and downs regarding organic traffic, and we were in the situation of trying to understand why the Google traffic dropped dramatically at some point as well. Having all these in mind, we’ve thought of easing your work, and we’ve put together a list with the top 16 reasons that can cause sudden traffic drop, unrelated to Google algorithm changes or penalties.
There are a few key pieces of information that we want to look at with Organic Traffic. The first piece of information that helps us frame the website performance is the total percentage of traffic that is organic traffic. These numbers will vary greatly based on your AdWords spend, how many email campaigns you send and many other factors. To view this figure, we want to go to the Acquisition section of your Analytics dashboard and then proceed to Channels.
The good news is, however, indications are that dark social should decrease more and more over time, as social media as a sharing mechanism -- as opposed to email -- only continues to grow. In fact, in the same article we mentioned earlier, BuzzFeed cited a preference with millennials to share over Facebook and Twitter, alongside a longer term downward trend of sharing over email.
This quickly turns into a “chicken-and-egg” situation. Are fewer people coming to your site due to poor visibility in the SERPs? Or have you shifted your product focus, and is that why consumers are no longer interested in your brand? For a quick check, look at Google Search Console data, and pull positions and clicks by page. If position is staying relatively stagnant, this means your brand is not losing visibility in the SERPs, and there may be a bigger issue at play.
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Now, it is not that these sites are not interested in Google users. In fact, they have hired us to help them increase their share. However, they are getting so much traffic from sites like Facebook that it seems there is less urgency about attracting this traffic and less willingness to change the site to meet organic standards. Not long ago, sites would urgently and unquestioningly abide by Google’s standards to court that traffic.
Visitors can also fall into the direct category by clicking a link to your site from an email or PDF document, accessing your site from a shortened URL (which is an abbreviated version of your website address), clicking on a link from a secured site to your non-secure site, or clicking on a link to your site from a social media application like Facebook or Twitter. And, there is a chance that accessing your site from an organic search can end up being reported as direct traffic.
Hi Brankica, You nicely sum up 50 sources of web traffic, I know I don't use all of them, but I can start to use them now. You've nicely put on one place 50 great places to get backlinks from. It's good to have various sources of traffic, that's like not putting all the eggs in one basket. I also hear that having links from a multiple sources and from across the world is also good for SEO. Ben Wan
Fantastic post Tom! There's a lot of confusion on direct traffic to begin with. These are even more finer nuances that you have explained. I have a client whose top source of traffic is direct, and part of it is maybe due to the fact that they don't do any promotion, and it's mostly shared around internally within their team. But I just noticed that their URL is http and not https so this might be something for me to take back to the team. Thanks!
We used to like best to see a fairly balanced mix, back when there were mostly just three sources: Organic, Direct, and Referral. Organic Search traffic is a good sign of general site health, it’s usually the top source of conversions, and it generally shows great ROI. Direct traffic is often the people who love your site or are coming back to buy after they found you in some other way. These two groups of visitors are probably the ones that bring you the most sales or leads.

Armed with this information, ecommerce marketers can learn why some sources might be underperforming or focus efforts on sources that drive better quality traffic. In some cases, this might mean relying less on search engines and more on social media or brand awareness. Other times the opposite could be the best course of action. Either way, the Traffic Sources section in Google Analytics can help.


What about Twithelp? I just discovered them, and went a little hog wild posting answers for people with various natural parenting questions. I'm afraid I might've spammed my feed, I was having so much fun. Oops. =) I like the Craigslist idea, as well. Even though right now I don't have any informational products to sell or for free download on my blog yet, I started wondering if I shouldn't advertise there as a natural parenting consultant, and offer to visit people's homes or meet them for an hour or two of consult with their little ones. I could do this locally very, very easily! Thanks again, Brankica! (I promise, I'm not stalking you! lol) Delena
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Brankica, Very comprehensive list there. Can't think of anything else :D RT! I think the traffic sources that I hardly use is answering questions. I find that traffic conversion there is poor for me, so I don't focus too much on it. I think of all those in the list, focus on those that gives you the best kind of traffic. Forums can be a particularly useful one especially when people are there asking for help. Answering their questions and giving them a link that benefits their query is one good way of getting the right kind of traffic.

Forums are probably one of the least effective forms of free traffic, but it all depends on the forum. You’re looking for large, active communities where you can carve out a bit of a reputation for yourself. Sure, you can dominate a small forum, but the returns won’t be worth it. Conversely, too large a site and you may have trouble attracting attention at all. It’s a hard balance to strike.
Brankica, Gooooood...ness! Where to start giving you props on this VERY well developed post. Absolutely brilliant. You have covered so much, so many areas and done it extremely well. Two items that grabbed me the most, as I have commented time and again about where I got my blogging start, and that is through freelance writing. So, I have always limited myself by using this form of media. Video / photo journalism are brilliant forms of communication, but I've always said, "Ah, that's for someone else..." And I noticed that you lightly touched on e-zines (article submissions). These will become viable again as they make adjustments. Anyway, I could go on forever. Again, you have done a fantastic job with this post. All the best, Bryan

RankBrain can have an impact on your keywords campaigns. When you are defining your keywords, you are looking for relevant terms that respond to customers queries. This is how a successful SEO strategy works. And logically, if you are picking keywords your audience is not searching for, you campaign will have no chance to succeed. This is where RankBrain can play a role.


This is an easy one. Don’t use meta refreshes or JavaScript-based redirects — these can wipe or replace referrer data, leading to direct traffic in Analytics. You should also be meticulous with your server-side redirects, and — as is often recommended by SEOs — audit your redirect file frequently. Complex chains are more likely to result in a loss of referrer data, and you run the risk of UTM parameters getting stripped out.
If, on the other hand, you’ve already migrated to HTTPS and are concerned about your users appearing to partner websites as direct traffic, you can implement the meta referrer tag. Cyrus Shepard has written about this on Moz before, so I won’t delve into it now. Suffice to say, it’s a way of telling browsers to pass some referrer data to non-secure sites, and can be implemented as a element or HTTP header.
Lol, start from the middle :) Yeah, Squidoo is doing great and I know they are cleaning out all the time when they see a lousy lens. They have angels over there that report stuff like that (I am an angel myself on Squidoo :) And it is even not that hard to make money over there which I always suggest to beginners that don't have money to invest in blogs and sites.
Another good thing to look at is domain authority and core page authority. If your site has had a few redesigns, moved URLs, or anything like that, it’s important to make sure that the domain authority has carried over. It’s also important to look at the page authorities of your core pages. If these are much lower than when they were before the organic traffic slide, there’s a good chance your redirects weren’t done properly, and the page authority isn’t being carried over through those new domains.
Wow, what a massive post Brankica! I love it. :) I especially liked your suggestion to answer questions on answer sites. I've tried Yahoo Answers before, though didn't do much with it. I'll definitely give it another go in the future though! Man, just when I was tidying up my to-do list, you had to make it longer for me. ;) Thanks for such an awesome read! By the way, I found this post on StumbleUpon (crazy how the world works). =p Christina
Implementing structured data markup (such as that from schema.org) might seem like a one-time project, but that “set it and forget it” mentality can land you in hot water. You should be monitoring the appearance of your rich snippets on a regular basis to ensure they are pulling in the correct information. As you change the content on your website, this can alter the markup without warning.
Nice post. I was wondering if all this content of your strategy was been writien in blog of the site, or if you added to content in some other specific parts of the sites. I don't believe 100% in the strategy of reomoving links. If Google just penalize you taking into account your inbound likes, It would be so easy to attack your competitors just by buying dirty link packages targeting to their sites.
Hey, Kevin, love connecting with people and more then happy to tell you that my user name is brankica81 I will sometimes just stumble for fun and thumb up the pages I like. That is how I got a high number of favorites. The good thing is, that once I started using SU to promote my blog (just occasionally) my discoveries were valued more. I am actually a pretty fair user, I never thumb up something just to have higher numbers. Great thing is to have a friend with high number of stumbles, that can sky rocket your post, happened to me the other day as well. Paper.li is still new (for me) and I can see a lot of potential in it.
Another big benefit to using social media is that it can help you gain more influence, as well as grow your business across board. And although social media has little direct influence over your search engine ranking, it can help your SEO, albeit indirectly. By helping to grow your business and your website, gaining more traffic, more backlinks and so on, this will improve your website's domain authority, and thus, its search engine ranking by extension.
I am actually using a free service called Cloud:flood created by Glen of the ViperChill. I had great success with it, making a file available for download (I shared a list of 140 blogs worth following). It has two options, a person can RT the download that will take new people to a post where the download is (or what ever landing page you want them to come to) or they can share it on Facebook instead of tweeting it.
Hey, Kevin, love connecting with people and more then happy to tell you that my user name is brankica81 I will sometimes just stumble for fun and thumb up the pages I like. That is how I got a high number of favorites. The good thing is, that once I started using SU to promote my blog (just occasionally) my discoveries were valued more. I am actually a pretty fair user, I never thumb up something just to have higher numbers. Great thing is to have a friend with high number of stumbles, that can sky rocket your post, happened to me the other day as well. Paper.li is still new (for me) and I can see a lot of potential in it.
To find the right people I downloaded a list of some of the most popular users within the community. To do this, I used Screaming Frog SEO Spider to gather a list of all the URLs on the website. I then exported this list into an Excel spreadsheet and filtered the URLs to only show those that were user profile pages. I could do this because all of the profile pages had /user/ within the URL.
Next, you should specifically type search terms into the web for blogs posts on Facebook Marketing. Pick high authority blogs strategically (like posts appearing in Google’s top 10 for your subject) and write a detailed comment about results from your study. If you get lucky then these posts will be shared across social media and will direct traffic to your website.
Brankica,Oh my gosh girl you have really covered traffic generation. This enough to keep us all busy for awhile.I have been doing some offline advertising that work. I think the best one has been wearing Tshirt that invites people to site. It is a catchy domain name that they have to remember and go home and type in. I am amazed at how many people actually do it.Thanks for the new ideas.
Direct traffic. Direct traffic represents those visitors that arrive directly and immediate on your site by: (1) typing your URL into the browser’s address bar; (2) clicking on a bookmark; or (3) clicking on a link in an email, SMS, or chat message. Direct traffic is a strong indicator of your brand strength and your success in email or text message marketing. Direct traffic can also be an indicator of offline marketing success. We offer our views on the benefits of direct traffic at “Direct Traffic is Better than Google Traffic.”

Having large groups of content that all revolve around the same topic will build more relevance around keywords that you're trying to rank for within these topics, and it makes it much easier for Google to associate your content with specific topics. Not only that, but it makes it much easier to interlink between your content, pushing more internal links through your website.


This is a great piece of work for references, lots of info on this, Answer sites have become less and less popular, but the you can really build your name on these sites such as forums, if you are consistent in answering questions frequently. Out of the points you have mentioned, I relay enjoy the "Guest Blogging" point, as this is a win win situation, not just putting out content on other websites, but also welcoming guest on my own site, giving readers a change and a different style of article, as everyone is unique in their own way. I'm actually posting an interview tomorrow with a well known name in the guest blogging. Whichever point one choices from above, consistency is the key, there is no point doing it once, but it should be done on frequently, and over time with patience you will start to see the rewards.
So much traffic sources here, that I have not even come across. While there are the "most popular" ones, half of the sites you mentioned here are relatively new to me, so they all will be worth checking out. You are right about "forums" though, and although I am basically stuck with two (warrior and another that is unrelated), it does provide you some traffic provided as always, that you provide good feedback, help people, engage effectively with the community and of course, having a good and well structured signature :) Finally published :) Hopefully on your way to 300+ RTs, LOL
While it’s best to create a custom dimension for filtering out bots, applying the generic bot filter is a good place to start. It’s important to note that filters cannot be applied retroactively, so if you’ve recently turned on this feature, you should be receiving less traffic. Additionally, double-check that you are filtering out your own traffic and IP address.
Understanding how people landed on your website is a key component of optimization. If you’ve ever looked at Google Analytics (and if you haven’t you should), you’ve probably seen the words “Direct,” “Referral,” and “Organic” in relation to your traffic. These are the sources where your users come from — or what Google calls channels. But what do these words really mean, and why do they matter?
About.com – How many times have you tried to do something and needed instructions? You Google it and it brings up how-tos from About.com. Well, you can contribute to this site with some of the how-tos for your niche and get traffic from it. Additional tip – there is an About.com Forum where you can be helpful to people in need and get additional traffic to your blog.
The most common way a user can arrive at your website is by typing the URL into the address bar. This is known as direct traffic. Your visitor arrives directly without coming from anywhere else on the web. Other forms of direct traffic include clicking on a bookmark, or links from documents that don’t include tracking variables (such as PDFs or Word documents).

Facebook ads are a great way to get highly targeted traffic to your blog (landing page, fan page, what ever). Although not a free traffic source, it is a great one. The price is not very high and I think it is pretty acceptable considering that you can choose demographics of Facebook users that will see your ad. I had great success getting traffic that converts on one of my niche sites.

So, how can we minimize the amount of dark social traffic which is bucketed under direct? The unfortunate truth is that there is no magic bullet: proper attribution of dark social requires rigorous campaign tracking. The optimal approach will vary greatly based on your industry, audience, proposition, and so on. For many websites, however, a good first step is to provide convenient and properly configured sharing buttons for private platforms like email, WhatsApp, and Slack, thereby ensuring that users share URLs appended with UTM parameters (or vanity/shortened URLs which redirect to the same). This will go some way towards shining a light on part of your dark social traffic.
Hey Don, that is a great question and I will give you the overview. Now I have been trying these out for almost two years, for example Yahoo Answers was one of the first ones I tried and brought great results then. So first you need to decide which ones will you try and then track the results. I use Google Analytics to track the incoming traffic. So if I am focusing for example on blog commenting, I will note where I commented, how many times, etc and then see if those comments brought me any traffic. It depends a lot on the type of comment I make, the title of my ComLuv post, but you can still get some overview of how that traffic source is working for you. There are of course sources I discover "by chance". For example, in the last month Paper.li brought me 24 visitors, that spent more than 2 minutes on average on my blog. That is more than some blogs I comment on regularly bring me. So in this case, I will try to promote the paper.li a bit better and make it work for me. I will unfollow some people on Twitter that are not tweeting anything good so my paper.li chooses better posts hence better tweeps and get me exposed to them. A lot of them will RT my paper.li daily, so there is more potential of my content being shared. In case of the blog I mentioned, since none of the posts are becoming viral, the blogger is average, it is obviously not bringing me any traffic, I will start commenting less and work more on those that bring me more traffic. Now this is all great, except I get emotionally attached to blogs I read so I don't look at numbers like that :) But that is how you should track results. The main thing after reading this post is to choose up to 5 of these sources you feel comfortable with, work on them and track results. Keep those that work for you and ditch those that don't. It is a lot dependent on the niche you are in, too. I always try one source for up to a month, if there are no results in a month, I stop working on it and move to another one. If I didn't answer all you wanted to know, just ask additional questions, I am more than glad to help :)
The main tip about using answer sites is not to link to your blog every time you answer a question. Especially if the post is not closely related to the question. Answer some questions for the sake of answering them. You will always have links in your bio/profile, so if you answer a question like a rock star (without a link),  some traffic will come from people checking out your profile.
Once you've set up an alert within Mention, go to your settings and then 'Manage Notifications'. From here you can select the option to get a daily digest email of any mentions (I'd recommend doing this). You also have the option of getting desktop alerts - I personally find them annoying, but if you really want to stay on the ball then they could be a good idea.
A great way to break your web traffic without even noticing is through robots.txt. Indeed, the robots.txt file has long been debated among webmasters and it can be a strong tool when it is well written. Yet, the same robots.txt can really be a tool you can shoot yourself in the foot with. We’ve written an in-depth article on the critical mistakes that can ruin your traffic in another post. 

For a long time, digital marketers summed up the properties of direct and organic traffic pretty similarly and simply. To most, organic traffic consists of visits from search engines, while direct traffic is made up of visits from people entering your company URL into their browser. This explanation, however, is too simplified and leaves most digital marketers short-handed when it comes to completely understanding and gaining insights from web traffic, especially organic and direct sources.
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