Mommy, Where Does Website Traffic Come From?

  • February 9, 2010 by Corbett Barr
  • 3 Comments

website trafficWebsite traffic. What is it exactly? Where does it come from? How do you get more of it? That’s what this “Website Traffic 101″ series is all about, and sharing the answers to those questions is the whole point of this blog.

To some, web traffic might mean the amount of data sent and received by visitors to your website.

That’s a pretty geeky definition, and “data” isn’t going to pay the bills anytime soon. People are what you want to be focusing on if you want to be successful online.

Instead of data, let’s define website traffic like this:

Website traffic is a measure of how popular a website is. The level of website traffic for a site is measured by the number of people who visit a site, the number of pages they visit and the amount of time they spend on the site.

We’re talking about how popular a website is with visitors. To determine that, we need to know how many people visit a site (for any given time period). Since each visitor will be engaged with a particular site to varying degrees, we also need to know how many pages are visited, and how much time is spent on the site.

There are plenty of other things you can measure about website traffic, including where the visitors come from geographically, who referred them, which browser they were using, etc., etc., but how many people visited your site and how engaged were they are the most important questions.

Are we on the same page (pun intended) about the definition of website traffic? Great. Let’s dig a little deeper.

Not All Traffic is Created Equally

Having a lot of people visit your site is great, but what really matters is how much those visitors care about what you have to offer. This is known as engagement.

A high level of engagement from visitors means that people really like your site. They’re reading multiple pages, doing different things, sticking around for a while and maybe even telling their friends about your site.

Some visitors who come to your site won’t stick around at all. They’ll see your home page and immediately bolt for the nearest exit. That could be because what you’re offering doesn’t appeal to them. Hopefully what you’re offering will appeal to other people. If that’s not true, you’re in trouble. More about that in a later installment of this Website Traffic 101 series.

That’s what I mean by all traffic not being created equally.

What you want are visitors who are interested in what you’re writing about or selling. Visitors who are interested are known as targeted traffic. Targeted traffic will stick around much longer on your site, and is much more likely to buy from you or become a repeat visitor.

Where Does Website Traffic Come From?

Great question! I thought you’d never ask. Website traffic doesn’t come from a stork, Santa Claus or from the Traffic Fairy. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. A “write it and forget it” attitude doesn’t bring you visitors.

Strictly speaking, website traffic comes in two flavors, direct (type-in) traffic and referral traffic.

Direct traffic refers to anytime a visitor types in a URL to your site in their browser’s address bar (or uses a browser bookmark to reach your site).

Repeat visitors, word-of-mouth visitors and people who found out about your site from a business card or print article all come through direct traffic. Offline sources of traffic often convert poorly, and a small percentage of people who find out about you offline will actually end up visiting your site.

Referral traffic is traffic that comes from visitors clicking on links to your site at other sites or services.

Referral traffic can be further broken down into traffic from search engines and referring sites. Search traffic comes from a listing to your site appearing in search results on search engines like Google or Yahoo. Referring sites can include any other website where a link to your site appears. Common sources of referral traffic include blogs, directories, news sites and social media.

Getting traffic from either direct or referral sources requires intentional action. Attracting visitors isn’t a passive activity. You have to do certain things to attract visitors to your site. The primary things you’ll be doing to increase traffic to your site include:

  • solving a problem for your customers or readers
  • engineering your site/service for maximum share-ability
  • crafting your content
  • getting the word out (promotion)
  • measuring results and adapting your strategy

Get the full scoop on website traffic basics in the Website Traffic 101 series.

Sign up for free updates from Think Traffic and start learning more than just the basics of building a high traffic website or blog.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Brett March 17, 2010 at 8:12 am

I just found this site through a twitter link. Looking forward to pouring through these articles and applying them to my site!

Corbett Barr March 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Hi Brett, thanks for stopping by. Best of luck with your site.

Arif January 22, 2012 at 9:24 pm

I came through ‘Google search’ referral on this page as I wanted to know some things about Referral traffic. I must say I ended up reading the entire post and have bookmarked Website Traffic 101 for future reference.

A very good post Corbett. Will recommend on twitter too. :)

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