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The 7 Types of Website Traffic Sources (And How To Increase Each One)

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The internet is vast and treacherous, which means we rely on a number of ways to navigate to the right content and sites. Therefore it should come as no surprise that people come to your website from a variety of places.

Marketers can see this information broken down on data tools like Google Analytics. Just check out an Acquisition report for a summary of how people found your website. However, it’s not always easy to understand what some of these terms mean.

It’s even more difficult to figure out what to do with this information or how we can influence it. Therefore, here’s a guide to the different ways people can come to your website and ideas for how to potentially increase each one.

1. Organic Search

Organic search traffic is any user who lands on your website from a search engine. This is typically the highest source of website traffic because most people navigate the internet through search engines.

Where they’re coming from

  • Google
  • Bing
  • DuckDuckGo
  • Yahoo
  • Yandex

How to increase this traffic

  • Blogging regularly to increase the crawlable content on your site
  • Doing keyword research to improve your SEO rankings
  • Improve your site speed and performance because these factor in the rankings

2. Direct

Direct website traffic refers to anyone not passing through another website before coming to yours. There are a few different ways this might happen.

Where they’re coming from

  • Typing in your URL directly
  • Clicking on a bookmark in their browser
  • Clicking on a link from an offline source, like a PDF

How to increase this traffic

  • Share your URL in more offline places, like business cards, flyers or billboards
  • Share downloadable content like PDF ebooks that contain links to your website
  • Create a valuable site that people will bookmark and want to return to

3. Referral

Referral website traffic is essentially any traffic that passes through another website (other than a search engine) before a user lands on your page. As you can imagine, this includes a wide range of potential options. Technically, this also includes social media sites, but we’ll cover those more in-depth below.

Where they’re coming from

  • News outlets
  • Online listings
  • Review sites
  • Content sources like podcasts or blogs

How to increase this traffic

  • Write guest blog posts or appear on podcasts
  • Ask for backlinks on partner websites like your vendors
  • Send out press releases to get mentioned on media sites
  • Join local community groups or networks where your site will be listed
  • Submit listings on industry sites, like Houzz for the home industry
  • Claim your profile on review sites like Yelp or Glassdoor

4. Email

Hopefully, it should be obvious where email traffic is coming from. That’s right—email marketing. Because emails are inherently online, this is a great (but underutilized) means of driving traffic. 

Where they’re coming from

  • Mailchimp
  • Active Campaign
  • HubSpot
  • Constant Contact
  • Campaign Monitor
  • ConvertKit
  • SalesForce
  • SendInBlue

How to increase this traffic

  • Optimize your click-through rate
  • Include more links in your marketing emails
  • Use strong calls to action (CTAs) that drive people to click
  • Segment your email audience so they’re getting more relevant content
  • Use automated series to consistently send users actionable emails

5. Social Media

Technically, social media traffic falls within the Referral Traffic category—because these are all non-search engine external websites. However, you can also consider them a separate category because the approach to increasing traffic is different.

Where they’re coming from

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest

How to increase this traffic

  • Actively post to your company’s social media channels
  • Leverage platforms that work well with external links (not Instagram)
  • Use a link in bio tool like LinkTree to create a landing page with multiple backlinks
  • Be sure to list your company’s website link in your About or links sections

6. Paid

Like email and social media, Paid Ads traffic should be fairly straightforward. This is any traffic to your website that came through a paid digital advertisement. It’s not always a huge source of web traffic for smaller sites, but it can be one you more directly influence.

Where they’re coming from

  • Google ads
  • Bing ads
  • Facebook ads
  • LinkedIn ads

How to increase this traffic

  • Add digital ads to more networks
  • Increase your ad spend budget
  • Create more effective ads that drive higher click-throughs

7. Unassigned or Not Set

The final traffic source on this list is the most mysterious. That’s because were not entirely sure where this website traffic came from. That’s likely because the information tagging a person’s source isn’t available. That could be because of a redirect or some other error.

Although you’d prefer not to have any of this traffic (because it’s not helpful information), there will usually be some. Hopefully, it’s a small enough amount of data that’s irrelevant. If you see the not set traffic start to climb higher, it’s worth investigating to see if something is broken.

What sources are most of your website traffic coming from?

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Robert Carnes

Marketing Manager

Robert Carnes is a freelance writer, published author, and professional marketer. His book, The Story Cycle, is your business's guide to becoming a better marketer. Robert lives in Atlanta and you can follow him on social media @jamrobcar.

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