Do you use Google Analytics (GA) or any other analytics tool to keep track of how your blog is doing? At the interval of every 2-3 days, I log into the GA account of my blog (sorry, I’m kind of addicted). Though the stats tool provides standard reports including real-time, audience, traffic sources, content and conversions (for the goals that I have set up), the very first thing I check out or study is the ‘traffic sources overview’.
Usually, most of people think of blog traffic or website traffic as simply traffic. But that’s not the case. As soon as you go to ‘traffic sources’ inside of your site’s GA account and click ‘overview’, you’ll notice a pie chart displaying the percentage for each specific type of traffic your site attracts.
So, free blog traffic can be generally categorized into –
Search traffic – Traffic generated through search engines
Referral traffic – Traffic generated through other websites or blogs
Direct traffic – Traffic generated through ‘direct visits’
Well, this should be a no-brainer for many.
Even if you know about these three categories of free blog traffic, you’ll need to pay attention. The purpose of my writing this post is not just to draw your attention to the traffic sources data that GA provides. What I actually aim at is to help you plan your traffic strategy in a way that keeps your blog growing on a consistent basis, for the long term.
Let’s delve deeper into the different categories of traffic, in question. Knowing what each type of traffic actually means or what it can do will help you develop traffic generation strategies best suited for your blog.
Search vs Referral vs Direct Traffic
For consistent blog growth, you must pay individual attention to each category or source of traffic. It’s essential because each of the traffic types also vary in terms of their quality or rate of conversion.
Search traffic, for example, is highly targeted traffic. Those who arrive on your blog via search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing etc) are looking for something. They clicked your link in the SERPs because they liked it.
Coming to your blog was their own, independent choice.
Referral traffic, on the other hand, is the traffic that’s generated through third-party websites or blogs. The referral can be a link on a blog or in a blog post, a retweet on Twitter or links on other social media websites. Referral traffic is, therefore, ‘recommended traffic’. And the value of the recommendation is determined by the quality of the recommending source.
Likewise, direct traffic has its own character or quality. When people type in the URL of your blog into their browsers directly, their visits are termed as direct traffic. As compared to search traffic or referral traffic, direct traffic is characterized by its loyalty. Visitors come to your blog directly because they know you really well and like the content that you feature.
Where’s the Risk?
Unfortunately, most of the bloggers would plan out their traffic generation strategy, without paying attention to traffic sources individually. Not giving individual attention to each traffic type might jeopardize the life of your blog for the long term. [It can even ruin your entire online business.]
A much higher search traffic percentage (80% – 90%) might make you happy, as it shows your blog has rock-solid SEO. But as soon as you change the perspective, it also indicates that your blog is highly dependent on search engines. Guess what could happen if your blog is unable to survive the next search algorithmic update (like Google Panda or Google Penguin).
Likewise, an incredibly smaller percentage of direct traffic indicates that you have serious problems with the branding of your blog (or online business for that matter). A tiny amount of referral traffic signals that your blog has very few recommendations across the web.
That’s why it’s extremely important to keep a close watch on the traffic sources data of your blog, evaluate the situation and tweak your strategy according to specific requirements before it’s really too late.
Search Traffic Strategy Planning
Developing a good SEO strategy for your blog (to increase search traffic) requires a good knowledge of the search engines, and the way their algorithmic structure works while ranking a site in SERPs. Before you create your action-plan, you must understand your current position, know the keywords you want to target really well and analyze the competition.
To improve the SEO of your blog, you should know –
SEO tactics continue to evolve. It’s vital that you keep yourself on top of the latest search industry trends and developments. For your convenience, I’ve also put together a list of top SEO blogs you can read.
In case you lack SEO knowledge or experience, it’s highly recommended to hire a good SEO professional or agency.
Referral Traffic Strategy Planning
There’s little doubt that referral traffic is an important part of the overall traffic that your blog gets. But it’s important to look at referral traffic in terms of conversions, rather than merely focusing on the number. In order to convert more visitors, you should choose the referring sources wisely. The best part about getting more and more referral traffic is that it boosts your blog’s SEO as well.
Key tactics of increasing referral traffic include –
While creating a strategy for getting more referral traffic is a good idea, it’s also important to keep a close watch on the quality of the different referrals. When you know which web sources work best for referral traffic, you can focus your effort in the right direction and maximize results.
Direct Traffic Strategy Planning
Creating a strategy for increasing direct traffic to your blog is vital, as this traffic is independent of search ranking changes. Even when your site’s rankings are affected by an update, your direct visitors will keep coming. That’s why direct visitors are also called ‘loyal visitors’.
Proven ways of improving direct traffic include –
Building a brand around your blog
Standing your blog out in the crowd (in terms of content, design)
Advertising your blog through promotional items
Presenting live events or workshops
Getting interviewed on TV, radio etc
There are different sources from where you can direct or attract traffic to your blog for free. But you need to make sure you are paying adequate attention to each of them so as to achieve consistent blog growth. Depending on just one source of traffic while ignoring others is something that you must avoid at all costs.
It’s time to have a closer look at the traffic sources data of your blog, analyze and identify the issues. Let me know what you find.