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?
Direct traffic is people who type your URL into their navigation bar, or who use a bookmark. These are your regular visitors, people who’ve discovered you in some other way and are now coming back, and — less now than in the past — people who type in a URL they’ve seen on your offline ads or who guess your web address based on your company name. Direct traffic is often the highest converting kind, but it can also be regular blog readers or your own staff. Filter your workers out if at all possible to keep your data clean. If you can’t filter them, at least ask them to use direct methods (rather than search, for example) and you may be able to identify it when you work in Analytics. Any traffic that Google can’t identify will also show up in Direct traffic, and that can include ads if you haven’t hooked up your ad accounts with your analytics, email or SMS campaigns if you haven’t tagged them for Google, and other sources that aren’t identified. Tag well and you’ll see less of this.
As I said at the beginning of the article, more naturally earned backlinks, will help you get more organic traffic and improve SEO. You can suggest your readers to link back to your website by having a small widget at the bottom of your posts. Just as you have the social media sharing links, an embedded linking widget will increase the chances to get more backlinks.
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 response rate here was huge because this is a mutually beneficial relationship. The bloggers get free products to use within their outfits (as well as more clothes for their wardrobe!) and I was able to drive traffic through to my site, get high-quality backlinks, a load of social media engagement and some high-end photography to use within my own content and on product pages.
Look at the biggest startup success stories and analyse their content. Airbnb positions itself as the place to find unique travel experiences with locals, Uber is the cheap, on-demand taxi alternative and Skillshare carved its niche as a free learning exchange platform. They all address their audience concerns in a way nobody else is doing and their content has a friendly, approachable tone – even when we’re talking about software startups like IFTTT or Slack.
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Direct traffic is people who type your URL into their navigation bar, or who use a bookmark. These are your regular visitors, people who’ve discovered you in some other way and are now coming back, and — less now than in the past — people who type in a URL they’ve seen on your offline ads or who guess your web address based on your company name. Direct traffic is often the highest converting kind, but it can also be regular blog readers or your own staff. Filter your workers out if at all possible to keep your data clean. If you can’t filter them, at least ask them to use direct methods (rather than search, for example) and you may be able to identify it when you work in Analytics. Any traffic that Google can’t identify will also show up in Direct traffic, and that can include ads if you haven’t hooked up your ad accounts with your analytics, email or SMS campaigns if you haven’t tagged them for Google, and other sources that aren’t identified. Tag well and you’ll see less of this.
Another point which you did mention (between the lines: "and updating your backlinks to point to HTTPS URLs") but I actually didn't realize enough is that updating backlinks when your site switches from http to https is very important. Redirecting all http traffic to the https version of your site from the server (301) is necessary, but doesn't solve losing referral data. Only updating backlinks, especially those on httpS-sites, does. I'd like to emphasize that!
Are you currently excluding all known bots and spiders in Google Analytics? If not, you may be experiencing inflated traffic metrics and not even know it. Typically, bots enter through the home page and cascade down throughout your site navigation, mimicking real user behavior. One telltale sign of bot traffic is a highly trafficked page with a high bounce rate, low conversions and a low average time on page.
PPC platforms hinge not on fixed prices, but on bids. Marketers bid for what they’re willing to pay for a single keyword click. Some industry words are much more expensive than others. The more expensive the word, the more likely you should rely on SEO to deliver traffic and leads to your organization. To find average industry CPCs, you can use Google’s keyword planner tool.
Brands hold a wealth of customer information that may often not seem applicable to SEO — and many times, it’s not. However, if you’re working with an SEO agency, sometimes sharing this knowledge can provide the missing piece to the puzzle. Knowing something as simple as “Consumer preferences are shifting around the color black” could help explain why your traffic is down if your products are often paired with black shoes. Sometimes it’s as easy as connecting the dots.
When a user follows a link on a secure (HTTPS) page to a non-secure (HTTP) page, no referrer data is passed, meaning the session appears as direct traffic instead of as a referral. Note that this is intended behavior. It’s part of how the secure protocol was designed, and it does not affect other scenarios: HTTP to HTTP, HTTPS to HTTPS, and even HTTP to HTTPS all pass referrer data.
Hi Brankica, wow what an extensive list. As a one-month old blogger this list is overwhelming so there were four things I have noted and will look into further are stumbleupon, digg, roundups and vark. I hope to implement them soon and will keep track of the results. As for the other sources, I will come back to this post to see what other sources to use next. I am curious to know from your experience, what are the Top 10 most effective traffic sources?
If your site gets most of its traffic from Paid Search, you should ask yourself the same kinds of questions. Is this because you have decided to use aggressive advertising to give your business a nice big push? Is the paid search bringing in plenty of sales for your healthy website? If so, that’s great; this strategy can be seen with some large successful companies. If it’s because you are unsuccessful with organic search so you’re doing paid search instead, you’d probably get a good return on investment if you optimize your website. Typically, the Paid Search results stay about the same, but the Organic Search increases and so do sales.
Relying too much on one source of traffic is a risky strategy. A particular channel or strategy can be fantastic for generating traffic today, but it doesn’t mean it will stay the same tomorrow. Some sites lost out when Penguin started penalizing on certain SEO linking practices. Others lost out when Facebook decided to massively restrict organic reach. If your site relies exclusively on only one source of traffic, then algorithm changes can create some serious trouble for you. So be aware of the importance of diversifying and know the options available from different traffic sources.
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I would like to talk about a case study for a large start up I worked on for over eight months in the Australian and US market. This client originally came to the company with the typical link building and SEO problems. They had been using a SEO company that had an extensive link network and was using less than impressive SEO tactics and methodologies over the last 12 months. The company was also losing considerable revenue as a direct result of this low quality SEO work. So, I had to scramble and develop a revival strategy for this client.
Whether location comes into your SEO strategy really depends on the nature of your startup. Airbnb certainly wants to be showing up in local results, and the likes of Uber, Skyscanner and Deliveroo all rely on location data to connect with users new and old. This is a crucial factor in terms of relevance for suitable searches and you may need to consider this if location plays a key role in your startup.
For reasons we’ve already discussed, traffic from bookmarks and dark social is an enormously valuable segment to analyze. These are likely to be some of your most loyal and engaged users, and it’s not uncommon to see a notably higher conversion rate for a clean direct channel compared to the site average. You should make the effort to get to know them.
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Looking at the keyword rankings and organic landing pages provided a little bit of insight into the organic traffic loss, but it was nothing definitive. Because of this, I moved to the on-page metrics for further clarity. As a disclaimer, when I talk about on-page metrics, I’m talking about bounce rate, page views, average page views per session, and time on site.
Referral means people clicked on a link somewhere else. This can be email or social, but is mostly links on other websites. If you switch the view in the Channels pie chart to Sources/Mediums, as we did for the screenshot below, you can see your most important links. For our lab site, Pinterest is major, as are Google’s educators’ sites and several homeschool sites. We can click on Acquisitions> Referrals to see more. Referral traffic can be a little confusing because it overlaps with Email and Social; more on that later.
The SEO landscape has changed enormously in the last years. Organic traffic comes and go, the websites’ performance seems to be as volatile as it gets and at the end of the day, you might ask yourself: why did my organic traffic drop? Did Google change its algorithm again? Was a sort of SEO attack on my site or was it something that I did? And while you keep on searching for the reasons your hard-worked ranks and traffic went down the drain, your frustration gets bigger as the solution to your problem seems increasingly far.
To give you an idea of just how much money is being spent on paid search, take a look at Google. Google's AdWords program is the most used pay-per-click (PPC) advertising program available today. While the tech giant owns YouTube and Android, among hundreds of other profitable brands, AdWords accounts for roughly 70% of their revenue -- which speaks wonders for its effectiveness.

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.
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.

People find their way to your website in many different ways. If someone is already familiar with your business and knows where to find your website, they might just navigate straight to your website by typing in your domain. If someone sees a link to a blog you wrote in their Facebook newsfeed, they might click the link and come to your website that way.

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.
I just joined digg a few minutes ago. I gotta tell you that I have been researching on this topic for several months now. By far the best article I have come across on traffic generation. It's one of the most comprehensive ones I've read. And includes a variety of sources which never struck me before. I'm a musician and I plan on starting a blog and uploading videos soon. This is really going to help me a lot and I'm gonna follow. :) I really like the idea of using sites like wiki, about.com, scribd etc...
First, I will show you a quick snapshot of the traffic uplift, which yielded an additional 400,000 unique visitors from organic search traffic on a monthly basis. Then I will explain to you the steps in which we took to get the client to this level. I have also tried to keep this quite general so everyone can adapt their own situation to this case study.

Lee Wilson is head of enterprise SEO at Vertical Leap and has been leading digital marketing teams since the early 2000’s. He has headed up the SEO department for a top 10 leading search and digital agency (Vertical Leap) from 2010 to present. In 2016, he had his first solely authored industry book published (Tactical SEO – the theory and practice of search marketing).
The SEO landscape has changed enormously in the last years. Organic traffic comes and go, the websites’ performance seems to be as volatile as it gets and at the end of the day, you might ask yourself: why did my organic traffic drop? Did Google change its algorithm again? Was a sort of SEO attack on my site or was it something that I did? And while you keep on searching for the reasons your hard-worked ranks and traffic went down the drain, your frustration gets bigger as the solution to your problem seems increasingly far.
Hey Ryan, glad I could help :) I am going to find them later and steal all of them, lol. You had an idea straight away, but some bloggers get stuck and say "I don't have anything to give away". Yes, you do, everyone has something. You can always turn your best posts in different kinds of media, like PDFs, videos, audios, slideshows and just share them everywhere. Thanks so much for the comment!
Keywords research is a very important process for search engine optimization as it can tell you the exact phrases people are using to search on Google. Whenever you write a new blog post, you have to check the most popular keywords, but don’t be obsessed by the search volume. Sometimes, long tail keywords are more valuable, and you can rank for them more easily.
Before developing this subject further, indulge me to remind you that according to Google a robots.txt file is a file at the root of your site that indicates those parts of your site you don’t want accessed by search engine crawlers. And although there is plenty of documentation on this subject, there are still many ways you can suffer an organic search traffic drop. Below we are going to list two common yet critical mistakes when it comes to robots.txt. 
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?
I once subscribed to a thread on Site Sketch 101 and it was a game where there were supposed to be hundreds of comments. You can imagine how many e-mails I got in an hour! Nick (the blog author) was laughing at me, cause, like he said, that really was a major fail. I would just call it a dumb thing what I did over there, lol! But who would know there will be so many comments here anyway. I was hoping for some but did not expect this many. Well, now I do hope I will get even more :)

James, you give a great template for how a business needs to move forward in their chosen niche online.  Quite informative and the meeting of minds has been something a number of us have done online and in person to gain better insight into our small similar businesses.  Thank you for sharing your detailed approach to increasing organic traffic...content still is king.
What we look for in a list like this is to identify the pages that are performing well so we can continue to capitalize on those. In this example, we see that the inventory pages are getting significant traffic, which is great, but we also see that the Team page and the Service page are both also ranking well. With this information in mind, we should revisit these pages to ensure that they are structured with the right content to perform as the visitor’s first page view, possibly their first glimpse at your business.
Branica, I wasn't sure what to expect - part of me thought about skimming the article because I figured it would 'read' as all the other articles on generating traffic - I was WRONG! I slowed my skimming and started reading - you made the otherwise sterile information interesting while your pace infused a sense of excitement ... so much so that I want to implement everything you suggested and I have, I guess, what you would consider a niche blog. Thanks for the lists along with your insights on their value, etc. I came upon this article through Blog Interact - and glad to have found you. Peppy

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The big other search engine people recommend is, of course, Bing. Bing and Yahoo have something of an alliance, with Yahoo taking their data primarily from the Bing index, so appealing to either one is the same as appealing to both. SEO for Bing is a little different than it is for Google, though. Exact match keywords tend to have greater weight, for one thing. Bing also has a bit more of an emphasis on links from edu and gov sites.
Hey Mavis, thanks for that :) I wrote down all the ideas from the comments as well so there are at least 65 ideas now, lol. I just wish we all had more time in a day to really work on all of them. I guess all that testing and tracking comes now so we can focus on the best for our blogs. But do I even need to say how much I hate testing and tracking.
I am too much late to commenting on this article. I want to read "How much get Organic traffic by SEO", found your your article on top & really very interesting. James Norquay, you did good research.I think Now days google block mostly SEO activities. Is this worthy for current marketing scnerio?If any other post to related strategy for increasing Organic traffic, you can reffer me.
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Have you conisidered traffic exchanges, or blog exchanges. After submitting your URL and signing up to about 10 exchanges, it takes about an hour clicking through all 10 surf sights at a time. But it does give you some good traffic. I reciently started doing it and I am now getting around 200 visitors a day. That is just from traffic exchanges. not bad from just one type of traffic source
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.
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.

Hey Sheila, I think offline marketing can work amazing, as long as the URL is catchy and easy to remember, as you say. I am sorry that I messed up some people's plans of blog development with these new traffic generation ideas, but if they get some results from it, I am sure gonna be glad! Thanks for the comment and hope to hear some good feedback from you :)
There’s also other search engines. Ask, Dogpile, IxQuick, and so forth; these are all minor. However, one search engine seems to be gaining market share and exposure, and that’s DuckDuckGo. It has been trending in the wake of Google privacy concerns and some clever marketing from the DDG staff. It’s something you should, at least, pay some attention to.
Connect with people you know and they will see your updates. If you are a good writer and post great content, you will receive traffic from them. You can generate traffic by joining LinkedIn groups and helping people in your niche by pointing them to your relevant posts. Besides groups, there is an answers section. Answer questions the best you can and point people to relevant links (your blog).
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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?
Very often, display advertising stands at the beginning of the customer’s journey, and with this type of ad you can target a much broader audience during the inspiration/awareness phase and create attention for your brand thanks to targeted placement. It is also one of the cheapest ways to increase brand awareness. Just going off of the Google Display Network alone (which SEMrush provides data on), it reaches approximately 92 percent of all internet user and 65 percent of those users are reached daily.
For a small business, it is better to start with Organic SEO because aside from it is a low-cost investment, it will build your internet presence gradually and eventually have a solid foundation in your own niche – provided that you are doing the right way. It is not bad to invest in non-organic. You just have to make sure that you are investing on the right campaigns and not on the overly artificial ways to gain traffic and rank. Avoid investing too much on paid advertising and instead invest on creating relevant and useful content.
I have always believed in good quality content, well structured and written in a way that isn’t just about promotional talk. Thanks for sharing this information with us, it’s always helpful to have everything written in a concise manner so we can remind ourselves now and again of what it takes to increase organic traffic. As an SEO consultant myself I come across websites all the time that are messy and still using tactics that have long been out of date. Having a successful website is all about quality content and links. I like it that you stated what the problem was and then how you fixed it for the client. Great article.
Incidentally, according to a June 2013 study by Chitika, 9 out of 10 searchers don't go beyond Google's first page of organic search results, a claim often cited by the search engine optimization (SEO) industry to justify optimizing websites for organic search. Organic SEO describes the use of certain strategies or tools to elevate a website's content in the "free" search results.
Amy Gesenhues is Third Door Media's General Assignment Reporter, covering the latest news and updates for Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs.com, SoftwareCEO.com, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy's articles.
To do this, I often align the launch of my content with a couple of guest posts on relevant websites to drive a load of relevant traffic to it, as well as some relevant links. This has a knock-on effect toward the organic amplification of the content and means that you at least have something to show for the content (in terms of ROI) if it doesn't do as well as you expect organically.
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.
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Another key consideration is that social platforms have become search engines within themselves. Just look at Twitter, for example - you can use it to see what the biggest trending news of the day are and you can easily search for great content. You can search based on your location, in different languages and if you click on advanced search, there are even more options:
Basically, what I’m talking about here is finding websites that have mentioned your brand name but they haven’t actually linked to you. For example, someone may have mentioned my name in an article they wrote (“Matthew Barby did this…”) but they didn’t link to matthewbarby.com. By checking for websites like this you can find quick opportunities to get them to add a link.
If your company is like my client’s, there’s a good chance you’re taking advantage of the maximum 20 goal completions that can be simultaneously tracked in Analytics. However, to make things easier and more consistent (since goal completions can change), I looked at only buyer intent conversions. In this case it was Enterprise, Business, and Personal edition form fills, as well as Contact Us form fills.
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