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How to Track Referral Traffic, and Increase it

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Referral Traffic is a significant traffic sourceObtaining website referral traffic is not easy. But if it’s acquired, it can prove to be a silver bullet for any website, enhancing its readership and sales right away!

When we get website traffic from links, instead of direct visits from search engines and direct traffic (meaning visitors typing the URL on the address bar), we call them referral traffic. In other words, they refer to all traffic which is referred by another website and not by search engines. To be precise, traffic from forums, blogs, social networks, directories etc. fall under the category of referral traffic. It is a kind of a recommendation from one website to another; an external source redirecting visitors to your web page. By external source, we mean content with a link back to your site which is posted on another website, links of your webpage on social media like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, and even links to your webpage posted by a user while referencing one of your posts/service offering. Pay per click ads are also considered as part of referral traffic. An increase in referral traffic directly improves the page views and active sessions of a web page or blog.

Organic search brings in qualified leads to a web page. Therefore, every effort should be made to build a search engine friendly website, one that search engine bots are able to crawl effortlessly. However, referral traffic is another primary source of targeted and qualified traffic to your website because they are referred by relevant websites, related content and similar forums. Referral traffic boosts the trust flow of your website. The higher the trust quotient, the more trustworthy your business is perceived to be.

The website that redirects traffic to your webpage is commonly known as the “referrer” website. When we are talking about referrer, let’s understand that there are majorly two types of referrers that webmasters consider: individual referrers and referral domains. When a specific page brings in traffic, it’s called an individual referrer. It can be a post in any of your social profiles or other websites. Through individual referrer, you get to know how strong the PR of your business is. When a website or a domain is causing an increase in your incoming traffic, it’s called a referral domain. Referral domains are important in deploying email campaigns and paid advertising efforts.

Once we have an understanding of what Referral traffic is, the next common question that arises is how to increase referral traffic.

It is important to track all your referrals to understand where those chunks of leads are coming from. They allow the webmaster the opportunity to classify the different referral traffic sources, and accordingly allocate the budget for paid marketing to those channels where you already have a bunch of interested visitors.

How to view referral traffic?

The image above illustrates where on the Google Analytics console you can view your referrals. Log on to your Analytics account, and get the statistics of your referral traffic under Acquisitions<All Traffic<Referrals. Here the graph displays one month of website visitor statistics for a certain website. Also the table shows the domain names from where traffic is generated and sent to your site and vital statistics on visitor engagement. You can monitor the percentage of new sessions, their average session duration, pages per session, and the bounce rate. To understand which source is the best one in terms of traffic generation, keep an eye on page per visit and the average time spent on each page. Compare the numbers over a span of time to see if your marketing efforts are improving your referral traffic or if they are ineffective. This will be an important parameter to decide on your future marketing efforts.

Referral Traffic on Google Analytics

Track your Referral Traffic on Analytics

Now that we know how we can track our Referrals, and the exact number of visits they are bringing in, let’s take a look at few effective ways to drive referral traffic to your website:

  • Guest blogging: This is something which yields long-term result and get more traffic to your blog with time. Guest posts allow you to get back links from a relevant network where the users have been looking for something similar to what you offer. Just make sure you are submitting your posts to a high authority blog with a good readership base. Needless to mention, relevance to your domain is key, otherwise the traffic it manages to bring in will be clueless about why they landed on your page and it will increase your bounce rate.

Writing for media sites can be extremely helpful to get referral traffic because of its soaring readership. Therefore, it goes without saying that guest blogging is immensely useful for driving referral traffic to your blog.

  • Commenting on Blogs: Comments like ‘’great post and keep it up’’ or ‘’thanks for sharing such an amazing article’’ do not qualify in this category as they won’t serve you any purpose. By blog comments I mean writing something valuable to a post that adds a new perspective to the subject and the discussion. You may point out some corrections or add points that you think have been missed by the author. Participation in Blogs by different authors helps you build a rapport with the blogger community. Besides, it increases chances of higher traffic to your website indirectly when those Bloggers visit your post and share comments. The more you comment, the higher your chances of more visibility and more engagement. Choose the channels well by selecting the right platform, relevant content, qualified community and their active participation. See how actively the blog owner is associated in comment engagement with other bloggers. The best way to start would be to join their email list first.
  • Social Media: As per Shareaholic report (2011-2014), social media is the primary driving force of all the website referral traffic. The upward swing of this report shows an increase of 31.24% of social media traffic on December 2014. Facebook traffic is up by 25% of all social networks and is an overwhelming leader in referral traffic. From December 2013 to 2014, the overall growth in Facebook traffic was 59.58%.

Boost Referral Traffic through Social Media

How Social Media contributes to your Referral Traffic

Although social media may not directly lead to sales, it is one of the highest sources of referral traffic and Brand recognition. This is why companies and brands rely on Social Media to remain active in their audience’s mind and this passive presence triggers conversion at a later stage. Therefore, investment in social media to increase referral traffic has one of the highest ROIs in SEO.

So you may consider joining some active groups on social media like Facebook and Pinterest and share your content with the right groups. Provide snippets from your post or a paragraph on what essentially it is you are writing about to generate visitor curiosity while sharing an article on Facebook. Your followers can get an excerpt of your post before clicking on the link, and more importantly they can decide if it is worth reading. Remember to share your posts at the most convenient times of the day and week. You may boost post through Facebook paid ads for a very nominal fee. If your content has the strength to attract readers, this can be a great tool to gain some quick visibility among your target audience. Pinterest is a great platform that has a high ROI in terms of social referrals, occupying the second position after Facebook (although a distant competitor). Twitter shows the best performance with tweets on latest reports, celebrity comments, participating in twitter chats like Blogchat and SEOChat, new product or a service launch and other similar activities.

As far as Google is concerned, proper hashtags and descriptions in posts can improve web traffic to your site from this network. Although not among the most thriving communities on the web, Google+ still has a market share among the most high-value networking sites with all Google users given a default G+ id. Most users use it for recognition of their id and their business on Google/ Google Maps. So, although low volume, you need to actively promote your content on G+ for Google credits!

Do not ignore channels like YouTube to get referral traffic for your site. It has a huge visitor base and one of the most effective ways to use YouTube is to upload short videos recoding your discussion or argument instead of posting textual articles. Videos have a high call to action conversion rate and can successfully draw traffic to your site.

  • Get more web traffic by joining forum marketing. Keep in mind to create a complete profile page, start threads on trending and the most discussed topics in your domain, utilize the signature space to update all up-to-date contact information, and stay active with regular follow ups. Joining an active and popular forum can help you to increase traffic to your website by building your online reputation and establishing trust. It’s particularly important for start-ups.
  • Email Newsletters: It’s yet another powerful tool to add to your web traffic. All your outgoing marketing emails relate to your newsletter and blog. You shoot endless email responses comprising of guest post inquiries, emails from individuals and companies interested in advertisement in your blog, review requests, sponsored posts and so forth. Boost your referral traffic by adding a link to your latest post in each of these outgoing emails. For all you know, that could get you an additional visitor.

The above are just a few ways that can get you started on making the most of your referral traffic and building up on that traffic source. There are of course many other things you can do to boost your traffic. Like organic search, referral traffic is great for returning visitors, getting valuable audience and engagement on your site. So refine organic visits and keep exploring and executing marketing efforts on multiple sources to get referral traffic. Content curation is time consuming but yet another effective way to get more traffic and backlinks to a website. Referrals change with emerging new platforms. Anyone serious about his online marketing must review his referring traffic channels from time to time so he can identify the areas where his audience is hanging out. Marketing needs to happen where your target audience can see it.

Do share your views in the comments below, and add if I missed something that you think should feature here.


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