If you’re actively nurturing your professional relationships, people are going to interact with you and your web properties in a variety of ways. Understanding how people are arriving at your site(s) should play a role in shaping your strategy. Diversifying your traffic sources also helps to insulate you from search engine volatility. It also helps you nurture relationships with people that don’t use search to interact with you. Here are some ways that you can increase your web traffic across a number of sources.
Identifying Web Traffic by Source
Before we get into how to increase traffic, we need to understand these traffic sources and how we’re going to measure them. Assuming you’re using Google Analytics, viewing your traffic by source is quite easy. Simply navigate to Traffic Sources > Overview:
By default, assuming you’re receiving traffic from these sources, you should see Search Traffic, Referral Traffic & Direct Traffic. Unless you’ve specifically implemented campaign tracking, you probably won’t see traffic from Campaigns:
As its name implies, the search traffic report includes visitor traffic from search engines. It’s important to note that the search overview report includes search traffic for both organic and paid search visitors. It also includes traffic from a variety of search engines, not just Google. If you’re running paid search advertising (PPC, Adwords, etc) it’s important that you have Analytics properly implemented to distinguish between organic and paid search traffic. I’ve seen inexperienced (read unscrupulous) internet marketing consultants report paid search traffic as organic. That’s not cool.
As you probably already know, increasing search traffic is done in two primary ways. First, regarding paid search traffic, you simply pay search engines for this traffic. This is how search engines make most of their money. It’s how search engines like Google make a little over thirteen billion dollars per quarter.
Admittedly, having success with paid search is a bit more complicated than merely paying search engines. There are a number of factors that will dictate whether you realize a return on your paid search investment. Keyword selection, bid management, ad copy, landing pages, cost per acquisition, quality score, etc, must all work in harmony to get from impression, to click, to conversion, to profitable client. Unless you know what you’re doing, it’s likely that you’ll fail to generate a return and conclude that paid search advertising simply doesn’t work.
Second, there’s organic search traffic. Generally speaking, when we talk about increasing organic search traffic, we’re talking about search engine optimization (SEO). But SEO is an umbrella term that has come to mean a lot of things to many different people. I think AJ Kohn’s definition of SEO in 2012 is helpful:
SEO is about generating productive organic search traffic by matching query intent with relevance and value. The implication of this definition is that SEO must draw upon an increasing number of disciplines including design, user experience, information architecture and conversation rate optimization.
Put a somewhat similar way, SEO is about supplying a search engine user’s demand that motivates the user to take a desired action.
That desired action can be a variety of things. For example, the desired action could be to buy something from the website. Alternatively, it could be to subscribe, comment, link to, share or otherwise help publicize something.
In many ways, SEO is becoming more and more like marketing your law firm before the internet. Sure, there is a web-technical component to SEO, after all, search engines, while sophisticated, are just software. Which means, they don’t speak fluent human, at least not yet.
But SEO activities shouldn’t be limited solely to online activities. In fact, there are a lot of things you can do offline that can have a profound impact on your visibility within organic search results.
Next up is referral traffic. Referral traffic is made up of visitors to your site who came from another domain/page from somewhere else on the internet. The referral traffic report:
lets you see traffic levels from expected sources, but also lets you see whether there are unexpected sources, such as a product review or news story you didn’t know about, or a popular blogger who discovered your site.
Referral traffic can be an extremely good indicator of the effectiveness of your online marketing activities. In a nutshell, referral traffic means that someone clicked on a link from somewhere else to your site. Here are some common examples of how this happens:
- You leave a thoughtful comment on someone else’s blog and your name is a link back to your site.
- Your work is cited by an online author and the citation includes a link back to your article, page or post.
- You are interviewed by a journalist who provides a link to your site so that their readers can learn more about you.
These are just a few really basic ways that referral traffic is generated. Again, if you’re doing real “stuff” online, this referral traffic will help attract real people who are interested in learning more about you, what you write and what you do.
On the other hand, if you’re comment spamming, article spamming, or otherwise link spamming, you’re probably not going to earn healthy referral traffic. In fact, if you get referral traffic from these methods at all, it’s likely that it will be unwanted and potentially do harm to your reputation.
So, what can you do to increase meaningful referral traffic? Here are a few ideas:
- Commenting – Go find some local news sites and relevant legal blogs to follow. Read the articles/posts. When you have something meaningful to say, leave a comment. Where the site prompts you to add your website, include a link to your site. Even better, include a link to a specific page on your site, perhaps your bio, perhaps a post you did that furthers the discussion.
- Write Good Stuff – Admittedly, easier said than done. However, your best source of natural links that will lead to referral traffic is going to depend upon the quality of the stuff you publish. If you write stuff that resonates with people, they’re more likely to link to it and share it. If people are reading them or following them, you’ll pick-up referral traffic from them.
- Profiles – Claim, updated and optimize various legal and social profiles. Include links to your site. Legal profile sites like Avvo, can be an excellent source of referral traffic.
- Q & A Sites – Likewise, answering questions on Q & A Sites, again Avvo is a good example, will generate referral traffic back to your site. The better your answers, the better the quality and quantity of referral traffic that you can expect.
- Video – Video is the future of the web. And video is very effective for engaging internet users and motivating them to embed, like, share, link to, etc. If you produce videos and publish them to a YouTube channel, it’s likely that YouTuve will very quickly become a major source of referral traffic.
As Avinash defines it:
Direct traffic contains all Visits to your website where in people arrived at your site directly (by typing the url) or via a bookmark.
The direct traffic report provides insight into which URLs your visitors easily remember, appear in auto-completion or are bookmarked. Direct traffic includes visitors that type your domain into their address bar.
Direct traffic can come from people who are regular readers of your blog. It can include former and current clients. A certain segment probably includes word of mouth referrals. Or people driven to your site by some form of offline marketing campaign.
Steadily rising direct traffic is an excellent sign of a healthy growing professional reputation. These are people that are by-passing other channels to get directly to you!
You can increase your direct traffic in a variety of ways. Here are some of the most effective:
- Create a great web resource – Creating a great online resource will motivate people to bookmark your pages for later reference.
- Make friends – Making friends in the real world will help increase direct traffic. People will type your site or blog’s address directly into their browser to learn more about you.
- Offline Stuff – Be sure to include your web address in offline marketing materials. Put it in your business cards, direct mail pieces, etc. Experiment with using different landing pages. This can be a really good way to test what copy motivates people to visit your site.
If you’re working to increase direct traffic, be sure to make your URLs clear, logical and easy to remember. They also need to be pretty short. People aren’t going to bother with long, confusing URLs that include a lot of hyphens.
If you’re a more sophisticated Google Analytics user, you should begin to explore implementing various campaigns. This is where you can really dive into some key intelligence about how and from where people are arriving at your site. If you’re using Adwords, you can chop-up your data down to the keywords, specific landing pages and ad copy that generated a phone call or a form-fill conversion.
You should also set-up campaign tracking for your email marketing campaigns. This will help you understand what people on your email lists want to receive from you.
If you’re interested in learning more about increasing, measuring, monitoring and tracking your website traffic from a variety of sources, sign-up for our free website audit service. We’re happy to help you understand your traffic and provide our opinions as to your best opportunities for growth.