Tracking Types of Traffic Sources as Key Performance Indicators
In the world of online marketing, one of the most important KPIs for a business to understand is where website visitors are coming from. There are a wide variety of different traffic sources; however the most common categories are organic search, campaign traffic, email, direct, referral, and social. Tracking at least these categories can really help you to improve how you engage and attract prospective customers online. Fortunately, most analytics suites have built in functionality for tracking these types of traffic.
– Organic Search: This is traffic that is resulting from users clicking on your listing in the results from a search engine. Organic does not include sponsored links.
– Campaign Traffic: Any visitors resulting from paid online ads including both sponsored search ads and display ads on other websites. Google Analytics offers functionality to track each campaign separately.
– Email: This is any traffic that results from links sent in emails.
– Direct: Any time a visitor comes to your website by typing in your URL or clicking on a bookmark, it is called direct traffic.
– Referral Traffic: Referrals are when another website links your website in their content. This does not include click-through traffic from ads on third party websites.
– Social Traffic: Traffic resulting from links on social media websites can also generally be tracked separately. Paid ads on social networks are often classed as campaign traffic rather than social traffic.
Many marketers will add additional categorization in order to learn more about their promotional efforts. For example, an online retailer who uses email blasts to inform customers about deals may want to use identifiers in their links to determine exactly which email blast is generating traffic.
Analyzing Traffic Sources
With these metrics in hand, it is possible to begin evaluating the overall marketing portfolio. Often organic sources such as search, direct, and referral traffic are considered the most valuable. High organic traffic suggests genuine interest in what you have to offer on your website. Furthermore, most search engines consider high-quality organic links as important factors in ranking your website on searches. As such, websites that receive a lot of referral traffic are more likely to also receive significant organic search traffic.
However, the reality of online marketing is that no single source of traffic can be considered safe. New search algorithms, lessening referral interest, more competitive ad bidding, as well as a host of other changing factors could quickly reduce traffic from a particular source. As such, much like with investing, it is generally preferable to maintain a diverse portfolio of traffic sources.
Evaluating Performance Using Traffic Sources
Data on traffic sources can also be combined with various key performance indicators in order to delve further into which sources are most effective. For example, an analysis of conversion rate may reveal that email traffic has a 5% chance of converting, whereas social traffic only has a 0.5% chance. This may illuminate that while social is generating 10,000 visitors a month, email marketing’s 5,000 visitors per month is actually more valuable. Using a combination of KPIs in order to fully understand the relevance of traffic data to overall business objectives is essential to making informed decisions on marketing activities.