How are people getting to your website? Is it directly through a search engine organically or by clicking on an ad? There is a plethora of sources that drive traffic to your websites and new sources are being created every day. Understanding your current traffic sources is the first step in formulating plans for capturing future traffic sources.

You may have heard your webmaster throw around terminology such as organic, PPC, and referral traffic. But what does it all mean?

In order to understand this terminology we must first begin with Google Analytics, a website statistics program.

Google Analytics divides their traffic sources into three categories:

  • Search
  • Referral
  • Direct

Search Traffic These visits occur when a user enters a query into a search engine. In the search engine results page (SERP) results are divided between organic and paid results.

  • Organic – Traffic from naturally ranking in search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Rankings are determined by hundreds of factors in each search engine's algorithm.
  • Paid – Advertisements appearing in search engines, such as cost per click (CPC) and cost per impression (CPM). Google AdWords, Google Display Network, and Microsoft adCenter are applications to buy ad space on Google and Bing.

Referral Traffic

Referral traffic appears when a non-search engine sends traffic to your site. To get a more accurate depiction of your site’s Referral Traffic I recommend filtering out your business and employee IP addresses.

Examples could be:

  • Better Business Bureau listing
  • Product reviews on Amazon
  • Restaurant listings on Yelp

Direct Traffic

Direct Traffic occurs when an internet user types a domain name directly into the address bar. Direct Traffic is a good indication of how strong your brand and/or domain name is.

Analyze This

Google Analytics is a powerful tool to use in diagnosing what traffic sources are getting to your website. Dive into Google Analytics and examine what keywords are driving traffic for search, referral and direct. In search traffic, find out which keywords generate leads. When analyzing referral traffic ask yourself questions like: "Do I like how my referral websites are distributed?" and "Is my company taking full advantage of social media?"

In this first installment of a three part series I distinguished between the three core souces you can monitor on an analytics program, like Google Analytics.  In Part Two, I will go into detail about how you can utilize 8 different traffic sources.