07 Feb, 2018

A Closer Look at Website Traffic

Analyzing traffic to your website can be very insightful. In fact, web traffic often is one of the most accurate ways to measure ROI for marketing campaigns and ad placement.

There are four different categories Google uses to categorize acquisition: Organic, Social, Direct, and Referral.

Organic Traffic

Some consider organic clicks the most valuable of the four categories. Organic clicks originate from search engine results. For example, when a potential client searches for “best advertising agencies” and then clicks on our website, this would register as an organic click. These clicks do not include paid advertising clicks from Google Adwords.

Social Traffic

Social traffic, refers to site visits from social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Pretty self explanatory.

Direct Traffic

Often the largest category listed in Google Analytics is Direct traffic. These sessions occur anytime Analytics cannot determine another traffic source. Instances can include:

  • Clicking a link from an email (depending on email provider/program)
  • Clicking a link from a Microsoft Office or PDF document
  • Accessing the site from a shortened URL (depending on the URL shortener)
  • Clicking a link from a mobile social media app like Facebook or Twitter. Phone apps often do not pass referrer information.
  • Accessing a site from organic search, in some instances, will end up being reported as direct due to browser issues. An experiment conducted by Groupon showed as much as 60% of direct traffic may be from organic search.
  • Going to a non-secure (http) site from a link on a secure (https) site, as the secure site won’t pass a referrer to the non-secure site. For instance, if someone clicks a link on https://example.com to go to http://example2.com, the analytics for example2.com will show the session as direct.


What is a Secured Site (SSL Certificate)

Secure websites are beneficial for a number of reasons. The first being a positive user experience. Site users are protected from viruses and malware while on a secure site. Visitors are assured that personal information will be encrypted; especially important if customers are entering credit card information. The second reason to have a secured website is to increase your Google ranking. Security is a top priority for Google. They want everyone to have a safe online experience, so a big part of their search ranking algorithm  includes checking for secure, encrypted connections.

Referral Traffic

The final category of acquisition is Referrals. Referral traffic is directed to your site from sources outside of search engines. For example, when someone clicks on a hyperlink to your site from another website, analytics records these clicks as a referral. As the name dictates, someone is recommending or referring a visitor to your website. However, these clicks will not be recorded as referral traffic if you are going from a secured site to a non-secured site.


Monitoring your website traffic can be confusing, but is one of the most accurate ways to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. By tracking audience demographics, acquisition methods and behaviors on your site, you can ensure your intended online experience is being delivered. Additionally, proper evaluation of web traffic enables you to allocate budgets more effectively; increasing budgets where you see results and decreasing spending on methods that aren’t working for you.  

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