Finding Your Audience: Interpreting and Growing Traffic Sources
Looking at how many hits your website gets provides insight into how much traffic you’re attracting but it doesn’t tell you much else. Understanding how your website audience finds your original content is an essential planning step in the content distribution process. The sites, search engines, and social media avenues your audience travels through to access your content are all aspects you should be paying attention to. The amount of people that come through those sources measures how successfully your content is being distributed. Google’s Analytics and Webmaster Tools platforms provide an immense amount of information pertaining to how people find your content. This data not only helps you understand how and where your site is doing well concerning reaching the audience, but also where you have room for improvement. If you’re paying for great content from a Freelance Writer Website, it can be disheartening to have it fall on deaf ears because of distribution problems.
Where Do You Come From?
Google Analytics has an excellent tool under “Acquisition” for examining at where people are before they come to your site. The Acquisition Overview breaks down all incoming site traffic into four major groups: search engines, social media, referrals (links on other websites), and direct (manually entering the page URL). There is a fifth group for “other” sources which refers to the minority of other ways people can access your site. The Social and Referral sections are extremely useful here because they identify which sites are sending the most traffic your way.
Exploring the Social distribution brings up a list of social networks that link content to your site. It’s most likely that Facebook has the lion’s share of the social traffic, but you may also notice a respectable amount of traffic coming from Twitter and Pinterest. Keeping track of the social stats is a particularly useful method to measure traffic growth through social networks independently of other site traffic. It also lets you know which social networks your presence is lacking on that you can look at as a place to improve. The Referral section lists the sites that are linking to your content and records how many people clicked on those links. This list will identify which news sites, aggregators, and blogs that both link to your content and have an audience that follows through on those links. Check out the content that these sites are successfully linking to and use that to help select similar future content that deserves extra effort in the distribution process.
Webmaster Tools can provide some further insight into where your visitors are coming from with the “Links to Your Site” feature under the “Search Traffic” tab. This page lists the number of raw links other sites are posting to your site without any context as to how much traffic those links brought in. This is more useful for identifying other sites that like your content.
Measuring Performance by Comparison
The Acquisition Overview information in Google Analytics is very helpful for identifying if your site has problems with social media performance or SEO. The percentages of your site traffic by the four main division are actually representative of your site’s distribution success. The direct percentage works as a very loose control group because it’s driven entirely by repeat visitors who type your URL when visiting your site. Since these are mostly regular visitors, this number is the least susceptible to irregularities. A well-functioning distribution implementation will see organic search and social percentages that are equal to or greater than the direct percentage. The higher the search and social percentages are relative to the direct value, the better those aspects of the content distribution model are working. It’s okay if the direct percentage is low compared to the other two. You can use these numbers to tell if you need to adjust your social media strategy or adjust your SEO practices for better performance. Referral data is the most subject to fluctuations in performance. The only thing you can do to improve referral is to provide high-quality content and hope that people who come across your content link to it on their sites.
Playing the Keyword Game
Webmaster Tools provides some additional insight into how well your site is attracting an audience through online searches through keyword data. The “Content Keywords” section under the “Google Index” tab lists the keywords that your site visitors most frequently use when coming to your site. It’s an effective way to measure how well you’re succeeding with your target keywords and a starting point for identifying new keywords you should be including in your content. This data can also be used to identify keywords that you’re not succeeding with that you want to, based on your marketing research.
Dan S is a former news journalist turned web developer and freelance writer. He has a penchant for all things tech and believes the person using the machine is the most important element.