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Decoding Google Analytics: What is Organic v. Referral v. Direct Traffic

Decoding Google Analytics: What is Organic v. Referral v. Direct Traffic

“Where are my visitors coming from?”

If you’re a tire dealer or auto repair shop with a website, you understand that this is an important question to ask. The trick is to find the answer! At Net Driven, we use Google Analytics to track it down.

Navigating and interpreting the data within your Google Analytics account doesn’t have to be confusing. If you want to know who is visiting your tire or auto shop website and how they got there, review your traffic sources information.

Traffic data is a great way to gauge the performance of your website, identify trends, and mark improvement over time. Now it’s time to learn about where your traffic is coming from!

Breaking it Down

Acquistion - All Traffic - Source-Medium View.PNGSite traffic within Google Analytics is broken down into three primary segments: organic, direct, and referral. There are other segments, too, but for this post, we’ll focus on the big 3.

In most cases, the largest amount of traffic to your site will be comprised of direct and organic traffic. If you have a partnership with an industry association or manufacturer, you may see referral traffic from their website. If you decide to do paid advertising such as pay-per-click marketing, you might see traffic coming in from ad campaigns as well.

The first step to understanding where your traffic comes from is to actually take a look at it.

To get there, locate Acquisition on your Google Analytics dashboard, click the All Traffic segment, and then choose Source/Medium. This will display your primary traffic sources. Now let’s take a look at how they are broken down.

 Organic Traffic

This traffic source comes from search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Remember, paid search ads or PPC (pay-per-click) advertising are not included within this source category. If you choose to run a paid advertising campaign for your business, it will not affect your website’s ranking within an organic search. Organic search is obtained through natural placement on search engine results, without paying for it, through search engine optimization best practices.

Haven’t heard of search engine optimization yet? Search engine optimization (or SEO for short) is initiated to help boost the rankings of your website within organic search results. Some examples of techniques used to boost organic SEO include using keywords, building local citations or mentions of your business across the web, and writing content that’s valuable and relevant for real people. The goal is to have unique and quality content, a user-friendly website, and relevant links pointing to your site. These are just a few of the things that can influence the rank of a site within an organic search.

Direct TrafficScreen-Shot-2015-10-13-at-22.32.55.png

Next, there is direct traffic. You might see this source listed as (direct)/(none) within the Source/Medium breakdown. A direct traffic hit to your site might be someone who typed your website directly into the browser. Or, someone could have saved your website address and used a bookmark to get to it.

Visitors can also fall into the direct category by clicking a link to your site from an email or PDF document, accessing your site from a shortened URL (which is an abbreviated version of your website address), clicking on a link from a secured site to your non-secure site, or clicking on a link to your site from a social media application like Facebook or Twitter. And, there is a chance that accessing your site from an organic search can end up being reported as direct traffic.

If you are ever concerned about a drop in organic traffic, check your direct traffic numbers. If you’re seeing a sudden decrease in organic traffic, it could mean an increase in direct traffic. It doesn’t always mean your traffic has dropped in visits overall.

Referral Traffic  Referrals Only View.PNG

The final category, referral traffic, consists of traffic from visitors who click on a link from another website and then land on your site. These “other” websites may include partner sites, blogs, emails, posts on social media sites, and more. By clicking on Referrals, you can see an overview of the sites that have sent a visitor to your page.

Referral traffic within Google Analytics lets you know from where the visitor clicked on a link that led to your website. This is known as the source. It also shows how the visitor was referred to your site which is known as the medium.

You might see referral traffic coming from search engines like Google or Bing, a blog, newsletter, or email or social media sites like Facebook. Referrer traffic could be organic or through a paid search like cost-per-click (CPC) advertising or a paid advertising campaign that you have created (but in many cases, the paid advertising will show up in its very own Paid traffic type).

Reviewing your referral traffic is a great way to evaluate the success of paid advertising campaigns, such as banner ads on another website. It can also reveal the success of other social media and digital marketing campaigns.

At Net Driven, we don’t want logging in to your Google Analytics dashboard to be stressful. One of the key indicators of your website’s performance is the traffic data. Now that you are familiar with how these traffic sources are broken down, you can begin to interpret your site's performance and become aware of traffic trends and patterns. All-Traffic-Google-Analytics.jpeg

Categories: Anayltics and Website Performance

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